No Parking Zone?

An inner-loop park is still on the endangered list

Rumors have been flying around the neighborhood of Timbergrove Manor, which is just west of the Heights.

Residents there thought they had succeeded in saving a 21-acre parcel of trees, paths and open space on 11th Street. The Houston school district, which owned the land, wanted to put a new high school there in 1999, but protests led the district to abandon the plan and lease the property to the city parks department.

The good news is that the rumors -- that a cash-strapped HISD has agreed now to sell the land to a townhome developer -- are wrong. The bad news is that the park is still in danger of being developed.

To get a taste of the Jeff Skilling Drunk & Dangerous Tour, Click
 Here.
To get a taste of the Jeff Skilling Drunk & Dangerous Tour, Click Here.

Two years ago HISD put the property up for sale; it gave a first option, with a discount price of $9.2 million, to the city. The city agreed to match up to $4 million in private donations to purchase the property.

The deadline to make that purchase is January 9. And everyone involved -- the residents and the private Houston Parks Board, which raises money to buy parkland throughout the city -- seems to have dropped the ball.

They have about three months to raise $3.7 million or the option to buy expires, and HISD can again do whatever it wants with the land.

"Everyone had breathed a sigh of relief, but then it turns out it wasn't a done deal," says resident Nancy Greig. "They've raised some money, but the new downtown park has been a huge competitor for donations, and you had the hurricanes and the tsunami."

Spurred partly by the rumors, partly by the pressing need, the locals and the Parks Board are frantically trying to jump-start their search for a bigtime donor.

"Hopefully some sugar daddy will come and say, 'You know, I'd love to have some park named after me,'" Greig says. "I think that's what the Houston Parks Board thought would happen -- 'Sure, name it after me or my family, and here's two or three million' and that would be the real seed money. And instead they've sort of gotten drips and drabs."

The offer's still there, though.

"We'd love to name it after anyone who made a big donation," Greig says. "If you know of anyone who needs their reputation cleaned up by a nice charitable donation, let me know. We'd name it Enron Park if we had to."

Jeff Skilling, the ball's in your court. Check out www.savethispark.org pronto.

Keeping Secrets

The family of Carol Donnelly, the woman killed by a Metro bus (See "Run Over by Metro," by Todd Spivak, March 30), has settled its lawsuit.

The bus was operated by First Transit, the private company that Metro uses for many routes despite criticism about how well it trains and vets its employees.

Because it was First Transit instead of Metro, Donnelly's relatives were not limited by a cap on damages. But they also had to agree to a stringent confidentiality agreement, once again hampering any future First Transit victims trying to get information on the company.

Dwayne Newton, the attorney for the plaintiffs, refused to comment on the settlement. Of course. What's better than sticking a baby in front of a TV? Getting him to watch sports on that TV. Forget those gaywad Teletubbies -- Baby needs football. Or NASCAR.

That was the thinking of Houstonian Greg Scheinman, the guy behind Team Baby Entertainment. For a year or so he's been producing baby-oriented videos for tiny fans of the Longhorns, Aggies and other schools.

Sooners Suck, Mommy

Sure, it's yet another sign of the apocalypse to the pinot-noir-sipping set who no doubt have their six-month-olds watching Masterpiece Theater, but it's been a gold mine for Scheinman. He just closed a deal with former Disney head Michael Eisner. The terms are private, but rest assured it was for big bucks.

We were hoping Scheinman would be a money-grubbing a-hole greedily polluting kids' minds, but he turns out to be a nice enough guy:

Hair Balls: Should you really be indoctrinating a kid to root for a particular team?

Scheinman: What we hope for is that it allows parents to interact with their children through something that [the parents] have an interest in.

HB: You're going to have NASCAR. So the child, I guess, will learn a lot about circles?

Scheinman: There's definitely a lot of circlesÉbut you have to dig a little deeper and not have it be as one-dimensional. You try to look for, you know, "A flag is a rectangle." There are all kinds of colors and shapes and ways to look at numbers.

HB: What if you buy a kid a Longhorn DVD and then it turns out he's really just into showtunes? Should you beat him at that point?

Scheinman: [Laughs] This is the Houston Press, definitely. There's going to be an interesting angle on this, isn't there?

HB: Now that you're into pro sports, are the kids going to learn about steroids, coke and hookers?

Scheinman: [Laughs] Yeah, we get the e-mails, "You didn't show them drinking, you don't line up 21 shot glasses"ÉAs a company, certainly it's not for us to touch that and it's not where [the videos] are going. Could someone make a great spoof? Yeah, I'm sure they could.

-- As told to Richard Connelly

 
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