To: "Jasmine Haynes"
Cc: "Tupper Thomas"
I am writing to you with regard to an incident which occurred in Prospect Park yesterday afternoon.
At around 2pm, I was using my spotting scope on a tripod to monitor a Red-tailed Hawk nest at the edge of Nelly's Lawn. While I was standing and pointing out the hawks to a couple of parkgoers, you approached and told me that I needed a permit to use a camera on a tripod. Due to several very public instances where birdwatchers have been incorrectly targeted for tickets for the crime of using a tripod in a city park, I have made it a point to learn the city's rules and regulations governing photography and filmmaking within the city. Occasionally, I will actually use an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera connected to the scope, but that is clearly not a commercial endeavor and does not violate any NYC rules.
I have spent countless hours in Prospect Park blogging about the park and it's incredible bird life. My readership is in the thousands and comments from readers make it clear that I have single handedly brought hundreds of new parkgoers to this gem in the center of Brooklyn. A lack of professionalism, blatant misinformation and the harassment that myself and other birders regularly endure is making it more and more difficult to try to bring people to Prospect Park in good conscience.
I found your behavior towards me to be both rude and extremely unprofessional. One of the people I was with requested your business card, so he walked back to your car with you. While speaking with this man at your car you referred to me as "an idiot". I am assuming that as the "Director of Special Events" you are required to interact with the public on a daily basis. If what I experienced today is typical of your level of professionalism, you are clearly a very poor representation of the department. I also found it curious that you decided to harass me while ignoring a woman with an unleashed pitbull on the opposite side of the lawn. Nelly's Lawn is NOT an offleash area and offleash doesn't begin until 9pm.
To avoid future embarrassment, I suggest that you refer to the Department of Parks & Recreations Rules and Regulations website before hassling anyone for the use of a tripod in Prospect Park. Most people would apologize for their mistakes, but given the lack of professionalism and courtesy you displayed yesterday, I won't hold my breath.
Below is a letter Commissioner Benepe's office sent in response to an incident in Prospect Park in 2005 when a birdwatcher was given a summons for using a tripod (which was dismissed). I have removed the recipient's name out of respect to his privacy:
From: Alessandro Olivieri [mailto:Alessandro.Olivieri@parks.nyc.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 3:22 PM
To: [ ... ]
Subject: Use of Tripods
Dear Mr. [ ... ]:
Commissioner Benepe asked me to respond to your e-mail concerning the use of tripods and spotting scopes in Prospect Park.
Parks Rules & Regulations do not prohibit the use of tripods for amateur photography or the use of tripods, spotting scopes, or telescopes for birdwatching. The Parks Rules & Regulations are available on our website in their entirety at: http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_about/rules_and_regulations/rr_rules_regulations.html.
I hope this is helpful to you. Please feel free to call me if you have any further questions.
Alessandro G. Olivieri
New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
830 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10021