MOWING DOWN LABOR AT CENTRAL PARK
Events related to the change in the operating lease for Tavern on the Green clearly illustrates the dangerous course that the privatization of public space and its gentrification is taking, with outsourcing and franchising taking control at the expense of the common person and his or her rights. In Central Park, the labor rights of workers are being mowed down by a powerful, privileged and connected few.

While the Parks Department is responsible for Central Park, the Central Park Conservancy has effective control over it. Douglas Blonsky, president of the Central Park Conservancy, has awarded operation of the central park restaurant “Tavern on the Green” to Dean Poll, owner of the Central Park Boathouse who is famous for treating his employees crudely and tyrannically. The non-union Central Park Boathouse was notoriously denounced in a 2007 audit by former City Comptroller, Thompson, stating that by various means the Boathouse had underreported millions and stolen from the City and the Boathouse employees hundreds of thousands. The Boathouse even sunk to lowly means by claiming a tax right-off on the meals it charged to its employees, claiming them as a gift, while failing to mention the many nepotic meal giveaways to wealthy and government sectors. These strategic giveaways were at the expense of the taxpayer and the employees whose income was allegedly derived from the aggregate tip payment. With much patience and perseverance, Dean Poll has managed his dream of attaining a monopolistic position in Central Park, be an uncontested member of the elite, and exercise his visceral aversion to labor rights and union employees.
Patrons and tourists to the Boathouse, laud the pictorial environment while ignoring the abusive and knave labor conditions which prevail at the Boathouse. Amongst workers, Dean Poll is best typified by his practice of rudely berating employees and the consistent practice of firing an employee on impulse. Towering almost 7 feet tall, Dean Poll’s abusive tirades made him reminiscent of the Eric Campbell character portraying the burly waiter that abuses Charlie Chaplin in the silent classic “The immigrant”. Dean Polls abusive swagger received a crimp when in June 13, 2008 almost all of the restaurant staff walked off because of one Dean Polls impulse firings. Dean Poll swallowed his pride and begged everyone to go back to work, not without saying that, “he will permit anything but not unions at his restaurant.”

Soon after, the Central Park Boathouse became the subject of a lawsuit brought about by it banquet employees over the collusion and non-payment of tips money. The lawsuit is being handled by Maimon Kirchenbaum esq. Following that, numerous complaints were filled with the Department of Labor and the NYS Liquor authority denouncing various illegal labor practices and violations by the Boathouse. Suspiciously, many of the complaints are ignored or simply disappear, show how position and graft serves to perversely lubricate things. However, the Boathouse has managed to effectively detach the whistleblowers.

Dean Poll fits perfectly with Douglas Blonsky, like a finger on a ring, because Mr. Blonsky demonstrated with possibly nefarious consequences that a nice lawn and pleasing Manhattan socialites is more important than First Amendment Rights and the lives of American soldiers during the 2004 Republican National Convention. Mr. Blonsky blocked efforts of the anti-bush movement to gather in central parks’ Great Lawn. In the concrete canyons of densely populated Manhattan, Central Park was the only venue available for the thousands of war detractors who had trekked in from across America and the world to congregate and counterbalance the powerful corporate media circus concentrated to spotlight and often give support to President Bush’s deceitful war policy. Aided by the New York City Police department and various federal agencies, the anti-bush movement was physically fragmented in NYC’s narrow streets, were almost 2,000 protesters and bystanders were illegally arrested and isolated for lengthy periods thus unfairly favoring the Bush spotlight. It would be cause for thought if the consequential needless deaths of thousands of Americans in Iraq should weigh on Mr. Blonskys’ mind.

By awarding the Tavern to Dean Poll in exchange for 25 million in building expenditure to the Tavern, Mr. Blonsky has once again demonstrated that gentrification and neatness matter more than people. Sadly, until now, Tavern, the country’s biggest earning restaurant, did not demonstrate a need for such as gilded renovation project. Leading one to believe that Blonsky only wants to leave a historical mark on the park and be the toast of his socialite benefactors. Like Dean Poll, Mr. Blonsky has also demonstrated a sad insensitivity to workers by firing over 30 workers this recession year, in a cost saving moving, while unjustly not renouncing any of his own 6 figure salary and continuing to enjoy all of his perks, and of course those free meals. Ironically, over the past years non-union Conservancy labor has been taking over the jobs of unionized Parks Department personal. See;  http://www.dc37.net/news/PEP/2_2008/privatizedparks.html and  http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2009/02/24/2009-02-24_rotten_roots_to_park_layoffs.html

Comparatively, Dean Polls was immensely aided in his efforts to swoon and underbid the owners of the union manned Tavern, the LeRoy family, because of an unfair competitive advantage obtained through earnings of the non-union Central Park Boathouse. Job security conditions at the Boathouse are epitomized by their absence. At the catering end, only a couple of the most senior employees enjoy a paid vacation or any benefits, those at the restaurant are notorious for their flipping turnover. The only others to receive payment for their accrued vacation were those who went over to the Department of Labor to place a complaint. The overall atmosphere is that in which those at the top take advantage of those at the bottom, with the bus-staff receiving the raw end of the deal, often with a chunk of tip wages stolen from them. Dishwashers at the Boathouse, who are almost always of African-Americans often received no meal time. They often were stoically endured abuses and over-work because of the limitations that a criminal record or parole weighed on them.

Mr. Blonsky, while handing over the wheel of the Tavern operation to Dean Poll, made no provisions for safeguarding the jobs of its personal because it was understood that the almighty dollars wrested from them would best be needed for the grandiose beautification project. Like the general course of events under the Bloomberg administration, the welcome mat for tourist and outside dollars would be rolled over that of the enjoyment and quality of life of native New Yorkers. One only has to see vintage pictures of the Boathouse, where numerous working families can be observed rowing boats and eating affordable foods. Now, the common mans venue has been replaced by a 13 dollar appetizer with some mozzarella and a couple of tomatoes, with yuppies sipping 8 buck cup of chianti wine. Previous north side access to the lake has been privatized and substituted with reserved seating.
Events at Central Park are being mimicked in the iconic free speech zone of Union Square Park, where its north facing plaza has long been known as a symbol and effective gathering space for sacred First Amendment activity. It is being substituted for the needs of fee paying patrons, and the surrounding million dollar condos and swank outdoor cafes. Surely messy speech and threatening speech lovers will be denied their sacred space or tolerated, making way for friends of friends to run business at the park.

By CMer