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Notes To The Children's Children's Children's...From G-Pa Cliff
New York, NY, Monday, October 25, 2004--

Standing up for the Children's Children's Children is the primary mission of a Parent or Grandparent of Vigilance. Often, standing up for future generations takes many different froms, and one of those we face in New York City is the proposed renovation of the famed Union Square Park, a national historic landmark designed for the public to gather and express a wide range of opinions. Included in the park are playgrounds for children, plus a pavillion. A private business group, the Union Square Partnership, has proposed an $11 million rennovation to the north end of the park. A $5 million anonymous matching fund donation fueled the renovation, but with one small catch: To enjoy the $5 million in funds, a restaurant would be built in the park essentially privitizing public land. Plans and approvals of those plans sailed through the local Community Board until a few residents and concerned citizens began to question the right of the Community Board to approve a plan that would virtually remove public land and vest it into the private sector. More importantly, the children and their parents and grandparents were not represented in the discussions. At the core of the renovations are the playgrounds. The plan calls for an alleged "expansion" of playground space and tunnels so children can move freely without interfering with the restaurant traffic. But the question arises, is the placement of a restaurant in the park a violation of the childrens' rights, both present and future? And, why hasn't the Community Board sought alternative plans for the renovation that do not include privatization? The following is a letter from the children. Its purpose is to force "adults" eager to build a restaurant on the "children's land" to stop and take stock of their actions. It is also a call to action for all Citizens of Vigilance to demand from the Community Board the answer to the question: "What's Right For The Future Of The Children?"


An Open Letter From The Children And Grandchildren Of Union Square Park Asking:

Why Are The Adults Stealing Our Public Playground Land?


We’re the children and grandchildren of Union Square Playground. We just heard someone was going to take away our Playground Land and sell it to a restaurant. We want you—WHOEVER YOU ARE-- to answer our questions before you sell our Playground Land.
Maybe…just because you’re all grown up…and we’re just kids…maybe you think you know what’s good for us…maybe you think you know what’s better for us than we do.
We don’t think so. Neither do our Grandmas and Grandpas.

Maybe you won’t pay much or any attention to our questions because we’re JUST kids and you’re adults. Lots of adults think kids should be seen but not heard. But, our Grandparents told us we should speak up because the Union Square Playground Land is for kids and parents and grandparents and brothers and sisters, and cousins and nephews and nieces…and all kinds of people. It isn’t for restaurants. There are billions of restaurants all around Union Square.

Union Square belongs to the kids—not to hungry adults who want to eat where we play.
Union Square, like all the parks in the city, is for the kids and families and friends to have fun in and enjoy. And, Union Square is especially for our kids’ kids’ kids. It’s for present and future generations who want to use the Union Square Playground now and later.

Our Grandmas and Grandpas said that we—the kids of Union Square Playground—owe it to our kids and their kids to ask questions about why a bunch of adults are deciding what’s right for our future without asking us. Grams and Gramps warned us that adults like to make quick decisions that make them feel good and important, and then, leave the mess for kids to deal with.
Like, selling our Playground Land to a restaurant might seem cool for an adult today, but later, when all the park space is gone…and there’s no room to make it bigger and better…those adults will be gone. And we’ll be here, with our kids and grandkids.

Our Grandmas and Grandpas told us that adults won’t want to answer our questions because they think they know what’s better for us than we do. And, if they do answer them, they’ll use all kinds of big words and confuse us. Maybe they won’t tell us all the truth about what’s going on.
We hope that doesn’t happen…trying to trick kids isn’t nice…and doing things that may be bad for kids isn’t nice either.

So, here are some of our kid questions. We might have more. Grandpa and Grandma said we should tell you what we’re worried about and then ask a question.


Worry Wart Question #1:

Gramps and Gram said you had all these neat pictures and drawings of how our Playground Land would look after you built a restaurant on our Land. They said everyone clapped because someone pretended it was good for us kids—that it would be bigger and better than it is now.
Oooops! We—THE KIDS-- don’t think so.

See, we kids like Union Square belonging to us kids. When the grown ups put in their restaurant, our Playground Land is frozen. When we grow up and have kids, there won’t be any more room for our kids, or their kids, because the restaurant takes up Playground Land.

People did that to the Indians, you know. They came onto Indian Land and set up a store, and then added another store until there wasn’t any land for the Indians.

A restaurant STEALS the land from the children. Once the cement goes in and the buildings go up, we kids can’t grow. There’s no more room.

The people who put the plan together made these tunnels so we kids could go back and forth under the restaurant.


This restaurant is going to take over a bunch of land that belongs to the kids of today and in the future—and nobody is showing how many more kids will be here in the future. And more people too! More grandparents. More parents. More uncles and aunts.

We want to know what gives the adults the right to sell our Land—the Park Land—belongs to the kids, to the people? Or, is it only for adults?

Tell us. Why are the adults letting someone steal our land by pretending a restaurant is good for the park? We want room to play and be—not room to eat and spend money so someone can make a profit off our land.

Maybe we need the Indians to come and talk about how their land was stolen by traders who wanted to open a restaurant.


Our Gramps and Grams went to a meeting last week where business people were boasting about how great it will be to have a restaurant in Union Square. When people wanted to know who the “secret person” was who put up the five million dollars to help redo Union Square North, nobody gave the name of the person.

As kids, we learned to not have secrets. If someone tries to give us candy, we don’t take it. Our parents and grandparents taught us to be honest, truthful. We wonder why the adults who are proposing this restaurant don’t want to stand up and let us thank them for being so generous with their money and ask them why they need to have a restaurant if they are interested in helping us have a better park. Our parents and grandparents told us to be wary of people who hide behind masks.

So, we want to see the person or group that’s putting up the five million dollars to help us kids. Is that too much to ask? If we are going to get a big gift from a stranger, shouldn’t we know that stranger? If we don’t know the stranger and trust the stranger, then we shouldn’t take the money, right?


We like Union Square Park. There’s a statue of Honest Abe Lincoln.

His statue stands right in front of the playground. He tells us to stand up for what is right.
What is right is that the adults show us kids another plan—one without a restaurant. One that doesn’t sell our land.

Maybe it won’t be as fancy as the one with the restaurant, but maybe it’s better for us to keep our land than to sell it out to a business—like what happened to the Indians.
Union Square is a place for people to get together…to give speeches…to rally…to protest…to cheer…to play…to walk…to sit…

We know the adults are all excited about MONEY. They think its cool someone wants to give them FIVE MILLION DOLLARS to help make Union Square look better, but we also know that maybe those adults are selling out us kids.

We figured that at least 1,000 of us kids and family members use the playground each day….that’s 365,000 kids a year….at least…maybe a lot more…That means our Playground Land is being sold out for $13.00 a kid.


For $13 a bunch of adults want to freeze the Playground Land, burying its future in privatization concrete and let other people make money off our land—land that was dedicated for our kids, and their kids, and all who come to visit Union Square’s kids.

So why isn’t there some other plan?

How come the adults didn’t offer up two plans? One with a restaurant and one without one? Then people could vote. People could choose.

Nobody can vote now because there is only one choice. The restaurant or the restaurant.
That’s not fair. That’s not right.

But the adults say it is fair and right, and puff out their chests and boast about how wonderful everything will be for everybody.

They say there will be nice bathrooms and more play space for the kids.


We kids already own the play space. You can’t expand what we have. The idea is the restaurant is going to give us back what we already own.


Another plan that doesn’t include a restaurant should be given to us. This plan is about our land being made better, not about someone giving us more of our own land already and trying to get us to think that’s something special.

What’s special is looking at the statue of Abe Lincoln.

What’s special is thinking about being fair and honest to the children of Union Square Park, and to their children, and their children.

Offering up a plan to put a restaurant in that steals the land from the children and pretends to give the children something they already own isn’t right.

It’s wrong.

But we are just little kids.

We can’t fight like the adults.

We can’t make up reasons why stealing land from the children of Union Square Park is a bad idea when the adults have made up all kinds of reasons why it is a good idea to freeze our Playground Land in privatized concrete and call it “something good for the community.”

We can only hope that enough mothers, fathers, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces, and friends and loved ones demand that the people trying to shove through a plan to steal the Playground Land from the children of Union Square stop and think like grandparents and parents.

If they do, they will ask the final question:

“Will building a restaurant in Union Square benefit the future generations of children and families, or will it hamper and hinder the future expansion of the park’s ability to serve the community needs?”

Is building a restaurant right for the Children?

We don’t think so.

For More Information Contact Cliff McKenzie, editor, www.vigilancevoice.com--email: cmckenzie6@nyc.rr.com


Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates, 212-987-0565

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