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Thread: Bryant Park

  1. #61
    The Dude Abides
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    Public Lives

    A Park Cleans Up Its Act (Gum Removal Aside)



    By ALAN FEUER
    Published: October 20, 2006

    NOT long ago, Dan Biederman, who runs the Bryant Park Corporation, was chatting with his staff about the problems that plagued the park in the dirty days of 1979. Those could be summarized as thus: drugs, rats, graffiti and the stench of urine.

    The park has come a long way since then, when Mrs. Astor was, as the saying goes, “accosted by a youth” (species: Adolescentis drug-dealeum) and the Rockefeller brothers pitched a fit. They plucked Mr. Biederman from relative obscurity to fix the park, which he has done so well that it is now — at 900 people per acre per sunny day, he said — the most densely used public space on the planet.

    With success, however, have come the problems of success, which in the case of Bryant Park have included a loud preacher with personal-space issues, a sukkah-dwelling rabbi who refused to go away, and Howard Dean, who held an 2004 campaign rally there, importing a graffitied backdrop to where there was no graffiti.

    Then last month there was the latest: a landlord-tenant dispute, which may be the only one of its kind where you actually rooted for the landlord. IMG, the company that owns Fashion Week, got into a tussle with the park and is likely to be booted after next year’s February shows. It was determined, Mr. Biederman said, that the editors and models were simply too disruptive and needed too much space.

    “We try not to whine at things that are not a big deal,” Mr. Biederman said the other day (after saying he wasn’t at all bitter about the spat, then quickly asked that his comments be stricken from the record). “And the fashion shows go under that.”

    It would be hard to locate a human being less physically indicative of the high-gloss, high-attitude world of high fashion than Dan Biederman. Which is not to say Mr. Biederman lacks style. He is tall, well dressed, well spoken, wears his hair short, is bespectacled, does not look 53, attended Princeton and Harvard, lives in Chappaqua, N.Y., gets excited at the size and shape of garbage cans and hikes each summer in the Alps. His mentor was the sociologist William H. Whyte whose best known work is “The Organization Man.”

    “I’m a half business, half government guy,” said Mr. Biederman, who also runs the 34th Street Partnership and has worked as the master of Bryant Park’s nine acres since 1980.

    He knows everything about the place. The lawn comes from the eastern shore of Maryland, he said. The tables each cost $75. The average “dwell time” is, based on empirical observation, more than an hour during lunch and in good weather. The guy who counts the people has a pair of tallying devices: one in his left hand to tally women, one in his right to tally men.

    On good days, Mr. Biederman said, 4,600 people eat lunch in the park (split nearly 50-50 men to women). Many sit on the Bryant Park Lunch Chair, a college lecture hall model with a custom cupholder. Mr. Biederman holds the patent.

    It is striking, he says, the amount of arcane knowledge one can learn in the seemingly homogenous discipline of park management. One learns, for instance, that bubble gum dropped on a sidewalk takes three weeks to change from pink to black. One also learns that the three worst occasions for vandalism in New York City are New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day and whenever Rangers games let out.

    Then there are the odd glimpses into the city’s psyche, which mainly derive from Mr. Biederman’s own time in the park.

    On gender: “Men will sit down at a table with crumbs near a pile of litter within range of the smell of someone who has just urinated. Women, on the other hand, are much more sensitive to danger, discomfort and disorder.”

    On race: “Mediterranean types, blacks, Jews, Hispanics, even some Asians have a better sun tolerance than the Irish, English and Scandinavians. If there is a group of office buddies having lunch in the park, it is usually the Irish guy facing away from the sun.”

    On national character: “Did you know that 67 million Americans describe themselves as amateur gardeners?”

    Mr. Biederman describes his mission as “building a crowd” in Bryant Park to which end he has brought in attractions like free movies, a carousel, a piano man, an outdoor reading room and a strange commercial event this summer in which acrobats selling underwear performed a trapeze act in Jockey shorts over Avenue of the Americas.

    There is also a Wollman-style ice skating rink that will open at the end of the month and would have stayed through March but for the fashionistas about whom Mr. Biederman is not bitter. In his mind the perfect crowd for Bryant Park is anyone of any race or socioeconomic group who does not spit, play a loud radio, curse within earshot of another human being or feed the pigeons.

    HIS most endearing quirk may be the notebook he carries in which he jots improvements for the park. This is a constant process that reveals his love of tiny details.

    Today it may be a better newspaper box or ice cream cart; tomorrow cleaner bathrooms or more closely pruned trees.

    Gum removal is an ever-present problem.

    “If you’re looking for a way to end this thing you can always say that right now we’re looking for someone to solve that problem in particular,” he said.

    “And we’ll pay a lot of money.”

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  2. #62
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    One also learns that the three worst occasions for vandalism in New York City are New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day and whenever Rangers games let out.
    Funny.

  3. #63
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    Bryant Park was looking very festive today. Hordes of people out in full force, shopping at holiday-themed booths. Reminded me of Krakow's Market Square during winter.




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  5. #65

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    ^ Photo taken when?

  6. #66

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    This morning.

  7. #67

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    So, are we looking at the aftermath of the skating rink?

  8. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
    So, are we looking at the aftermath of the skating rink?
    Maybe fashion week. Skating rink disappeared about 2 weeks ago.

  9. #69

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    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
    So, are we looking at the aftermath of the skating rink?
    There's an earthmover on the site, so I think this is a new drainage substrate. I thought it was funny that they used a "lawn is recovering" sign, when it looks like a major repair.

    Last summer, I was there after an early morning light rain, and there were several puddles on the lawn.


    Across the U.S., public parks are landing private operators

    New York's Bryant Park runs on commercial support. Critics warn the concept could disenfranchise the poor.

    By Robert Lee Hotz
    Times Staff Writer

    February 11, 2007

    NEW YORK — On any sunny day, thousands flock to Manhattan's Bryant Park, lured by the shaded flower beds, the carousel, the free wireless Internet and the hundreds of comfortable cafe chairs all painted the same soothing shade of ivy green.

    Not even the cold can keep them away. Since October, 148,000 people have visited the seven-acre city park to skate — for free — on what many consider New York's finest outdoor public ice rink.

    To some, Bryant Park is a vibrant town square. Others argue it is merely a frame for product placements.

    Supported entirely by commercial sponsors and fees, Bryant Park is an ambitious experiment in the private operation of public places, one that is being watched by urban planners and city managers worldwide.

    The survival of urban parkland across the country depends heavily on private largesse. Parks in Atlanta, St. Louis and Boston are managed by [b]nonprofit foundations. In San Diego, officials are considering a private conservancy to refurbish Balboa Park. Nonprofit groups may help manage aspects of the $2-billion restoration of the Los Angeles River.

    On Wednesday, President Bush announced plans to seek $1 billion in private donations to spruce up the nation's 390 federal parks and monuments.

    Most of the 1,400-acre Presidio in San Francisco already is managed by a nonprofit trust rather than directly by the National Park Service. The contract requires it to be self-supporting within five years.

    Influence of the wealthy

    But in New York, a city squeezed for open space, some activists worry that the public parks are becoming too private. They say wealthy donors may have influence over who gets access to park facilities, and efforts to make parks self-supporting can turn them into commercial developments. Civil libertarians worry that parks — New York's most democratic places — are becoming fiefs where political gatherings are discouraged.

    Corporate donations, concession fees and funding plans linked to commercial development are feeding New York's most expansive park-building boom in decades.

    Central Park — which gets five times as many visitors as the Grand Canyon every year — is the prototype. It is tended by a private conservancy with a staff of 300, aided by 1,300 volunteers. Donors raised $300 million to refurbish its 843 acres, and contribute $23 million a year to pay for upkeep.

    With all that renovation, park planners also built in a double standard, activists say.

    To protect the park's new grass, officials denied permits to antiwar groups that wanted to use the 13-acre Great Lawn for protests during the 2004 Republican National Convention, prompting lawsuits and public hearings. The New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera, however, use the same space for free summer concerts every year.

    "If you walk south from Central Park, every public park you encounter is under some form of private management," said Christian DiPalermo, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, an independent citizens watchdog group.

    The trend began in the 1980s as a rescue effort, with neighborhoods and business-improvement districts banding together to save parks that were decaying from government neglect.

    Parks, not backyards

    In few cities are people quite so passionate about public spaces.

    "Unlike most cities, people in New York do not have backyards," Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said. "People are absolutely dependent on parks."

    All told, New York has more of its acreage in parkland than any other major city, almost a third more than Los Angeles, according to the Trust for Public Land. By Benepe's calculation, annual city spending on parks approaches $1 billion.

    Still, Benepe said, "It is precisely when parks are doing well that you want to rope people in and secure the friendship and support of private citizens.

    "There is no such thing as too much money."

    In that spirit, New York officials are promoting two major waterfront park projects on the condition that they pay for themselves, with space set aside on public land for stores, restaurants, luxury condominiums and, in one instance, a hotel.

    The 550-acre Hudson River Park is the largest open-space development in the city since the completion of Central Park, and the 1.3-mile-long Brooklyn Bridge Park would be the first major park built in the borough since 1843. Critics worry that they will become commercial malls in all but name.

    At the moment, officials with the Hudson River Park Trust are weighing whether to use space for a public high school and playing fields or an entertainment complex with restaurants, a nightclub, a movie theater, a 3,500-seat event center and a performance space for Cirque du Soleil.

    But as New York outsources management of its public spaces, activists and City Council members say, the result may be two park systems — one funded by wealthy neighborhoods and business districts, and the other in less-affluent areas shortchanged by wavering public support.

    "This is an insidious thing," said Judi Francis, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund. She has sued over plans to build 1,000 high-rise apartments on the Brooklyn parkland to subsidize its upkeep. "As soon as you ask a park to pay for itself, you will not have parks in poor neighborhoods," Francis said.

    Community leaders worry that residents most in need may lose their local parks to those who can pay for the privilege.

    On Wednesday, city officials are expected to vote on a plan to give 20 of Manhattan's wealthiest private schools exclusive after-school access to dozens of public ball fields, rather than allow them to be used by nearby public schools in East Harlem and South Bronx. The private schools would pay more than $2 million a year to use the 63 fields for 20 years.

    But to Daniel A. Biederman, executive director of the Bryant Park Corp., it is public money that can't be trusted.

    Alone among New York City's 1,800 parks, Bryant Park accepts none. Almost half of its $6.1 million in annual revenue comes from companies that advertise by sponsoring events — including HBO, the New York Yankees, "Good Morning America," Google and CitiGroup (which pays for the park's popular skating rink).

    The park today runs in the black, even though Biederman spends six times as much on maintenance as the parks department once did.

    "Some people claim this is a bargain with the devil," Harvard University urban design expert Jerold Kayden said. "Some people say we need the devil."

    And in Bryant Park, the devil does wear Prada.

    Last month, the skaters were banished and the public rink dismantled for the season. The six-acre lawn was covered by private pavilions, then blocked off by barricades.

    Logos, not flowers

    After weeks of preparations, Bryant Park was turned into the gated community of Fashion Week. Its Parisian-style promenades snarled by power cables, its tree-lined side streets blocked by growling power generators and double-parked limos, Bryant Park last week was an invitation-only eyesore where commercial logos bloomed instead of flowers.

    Park managers would like to evict Fashion Week and keep the park open to the public, but city officials overrule them every year.

    "They pay us a million dollars. It's a million dollars I would happily do without," Biederman said.

    lee.hotz@latimes.com

    Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times

  10. #70

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    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp View Post
    they pay for themselves, with space set aside on public land for stores, restaurants, luxury condominiums...
    The concept has been around for centuries. 19th Century examles include Regent's Park, with its ultra-luxurious townhouses and mansions plus the Zoo; Tivoli Gardens with its admission fee and fun fair; and Budapest's Varosliget Millenium Park, which though it contains luxurious restaurants, a zoo, a circus, an amusement park, a vast commercial thermal bath and numerous museums, functions as the city's central park.

    Come to think of it, New York's Central Park contains some of those and similar facilities.

    Valid point, though, about the demonstration on the grass versus the Philharmonic on the grass.

    Well, there's always the streets ...


  11. #71
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    It all depends on what crowds you would attract to these events.

    I would IMAGINE that the Phil's audience would eb a little more concientious about keeping the park nice than a bunch of people who were angry and protesting, but that is only a thought.

    Also, the idea that these places become more private is OK in some ways, but not in others. If there was some way to get people to respect the space and not think "It's Free, and someone else is responsible for caring for it" all would be for the berret, but between the dog-crap leavers, and the drive by litter-droppers and the REALLY piss-poor "family barbeque" park trashers (Forest Hills has a lot of these for some reason, the park nearby), the parks have a hard time just cleaning up, nevermind being maintained!

    What would be able to change this?

  12. #72

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    The article makes reference to the Central Park Conservancy and corporate sponsorship of Bryant Park. Although both provide funds, there is a difference.

    The CP Conservancy has not only provided funding for capital projects, but have taken over much of park maintenance. But there is very little interference with the public nature of the park. You could say that the group exerts political influence, but in the case of the denial of the antiwar protest permit, that could have been pressure from City Hall, not the Conservancy. I think that's the case with their neutral position on the matter of banning vehicles from the park.

    Bryant Park is another matter.

  13. #73
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp View Post

    The CP Conservancy has not only provided funding for capital projects, but have taken over much of park maintenance. But there is very little interference with the public nature of the park.
    There is that matter of all those brown wooden fences everywhere -- which certainly has changed the public nature of CP since I first moved to NYC (when you could walk anywhere on the dead or nonexistent grass).

    But that's a somewhat small price to pay for the wonderful work that the CPC has done in restoring CP to the beautiful place it is now. So I will stop my public complaining about the fences -- and keep that grumbling to myself

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    I remember Central Park before those fences, when so many of the lawns were dust bowls.

  15. #75
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    Everytime I walk past Bryant Park its closed. When does it re-open?

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