Alaska rep urges federal takeover of Central Park

The resolution from Johansen, a Ketchikan Republican, first reported by The Associated Press, was highlighted in the Times

The first snowfall of the year is seen from Central Park in New York City, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Dima Gavrysh)

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — When Alaska state Rep. Kyle Johansen penned a resolution to urge the federal government to take over New York's Central Park, he may not have expected a hearing on the issue let alone a mention in The New York Times.

But he's got both.

The resolution from Johansen, a Ketchikan Republican, first reported by The Associated Press, was highlighted in the Times' City Room blog last week. And the House Resources Committee planned Monday afternoon to discuss HJR 31, which argues the federal government's hold on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is akin to labeling Central Park a wilderness area and halting future improvements or development there.

Johansen uses the resolution, which he acknowledges is a sarcastic swipe at environmentalists and government, to draw a comparison between Central Park and a possibly oil-rich coastal plain at the northwestern tip of the refuge.

The resolution recalls Manhattan's days as a "remarkably diverse and natural landscape" in a narrative history of the island that begins with Dutch explorer Henry Hudson's landing on Sept. 12, 1609. Previous inhabitants of Manhattan include everything from gray wolves to short-beaked dolphins to river otters, according to the resolution, as were Native American tribes like Lenape and Algonquin.

Central Park comprises about six percent Manhattan, which is less than 23 square miles in size. The coastal plain, which is the subject of a current bill in Congress and long a source of contention among drilling advocates and environmentalists, makes up around eight percent of the 30,000 square mile refuge.

The natural history and size similarities are the extent of the comparison, but Johansen said it was not intended to be taken literally.

"Alaskans are sick and tired of sitting here and being basically a pawn in the environmentalist fundraising issue," Johansen said in a recent interview. "That's why really, frankly, Manhattan was targeted. It's the epicenter for money and for social and environmental movements. Finding that spot right in the heart of where a lot of the opposition to domestic energy is was the whole point."

Democrat Rep. Mike Doogan of Anchorage and five other Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Chenault, have signed on with the measure.

Not everyone agrees with the symbolic aims of the resolution. Fairbanks Democrat Scott Kawasaki, a member of the Resources Committee, considers the hearing a distraction.

"People outside Alaska think that we get money to live here and are generally illiterate," Kawasaki said in a Facebook post Monday. "Now add to that (list) petty and juvenile."

Kawasaki urged a focus on what he considers to be more substantive energy issues.

Associated Press
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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