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After Transfer of Pershing Square Recreation Director, Community Calls for Transparency

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, January 13, 2009, at 10:28AM
Pershing Square Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Pershing Square, viewed from above in a 2007 file photo.

Pershing Square is about to get a new Recreation Director, much to the dismay of those involved in helping to bring more community to the park. Louise Capone, who has held the position for a decade, sent out an email to the Pershing Square Park Advisory Board on Sunday alerting them of her upcoming departure and thanking them for the chance to have worked together.

This week, motions will be presented at the neighborhood council's parks committee and the Pershing Square Park Advisory Board supporting Capone, expressing concern over her transfer and demanding transparency on budget issues at the park.

2008 was a very successful programming year for Pershing Square. In the fall, the Friday Night Flicks series produced with DLANC drew hundreds of guests to the park to view films such as "Blade Runner" and "Chinatown." Capone also brought the arts community to the park, helping to set up the Downtown Artists Project's Art Squared gallery.

Emails to blogdowntown this week praised Capone's ability to get great bands to Pershing Square. "Her long-standing relationship with the musicians in the community, her exceptional taste in placing the right talent in the right venue, her knowledge of music production and coordination, and her finesse as a music management liaison, have gained her great respect in the music industry," one emailer wrote.

An emergency meeting of DLANC's Parks, Recreation and Open Space committee has been called for Wednesday evening. Three motions will be presented. The first expresses support for Capone, listing examples of her leadership in bringing programming to the park. The second expresses a "vote of no confidence for the lack of communication and partnership by existing upper management at the park."

The final motion asks for a presentation on the finances of the park, claiming that "repeated requests for public information on programming budgets, staffing and other financial matters have been ignored and thwarted."

Pershing Square's garage, owned by Recreation and Parks and operated by the General Services Department, generates significant revenue for the department. In April, rates were raised for the first time in ten years. At the same time, the amount transferred from garage to the department's general fund was increased from $500,000 to $800,000. A December report to the Parks Commission estimated gross revenue for fiscal year 2008-2009 to be just over $4 million.

DLANC's parks meeting will be held at 6pm on Wednesday, January 14, at the neighborhood council's office (Spring Arts Tower #1020, 453 S. Spring). Similar motions will be presented at a Thursday morning meeting of the Park Advisory Board, to take place at 8am at the park's Administration Conference Room, located under the northwest corner of Pershing Square.

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