New York, NY (October, 2000) – Today, Project for Public Spaces (PPS) questioned the exclusive use of New York City’s Bryant Park by the Fashion Industry and other private commercial entities for their own benefit, while limiting public use. PPS and its late mentor, William H. Whyte, did the original studies that led to the successful rehabilitation of the park in 1992.

The PPS/Whyte recommendations, including a more open periphery and other features to encourage and sustain public use, like concessions, events and movable chairs, have resulted in what has been hailed as “the crown jewel of Manhattan” and is one of New York’s most popular public spaces. PPS asserts, however, that the original intention for the entire park to be continuously open to the public has been compromised with occupation by private entities that either charge admission or hold events that are open only to a select group of people.

Starting September 14th and continuing through the rest of this months, as well as in January and February 2001, the majority of the park will be taken over by the Seventh on Sixth’s General Motors Fashion Week. During that time, the public will be forced to the periphery. Public access to the park also will be blocked in November and December when Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus will take over.

PPS maintains that its organization has always supported the concept of public/private partnerships to improve and maintain public spaces. They assert, however, that even though Bryant Park is managed by a private entity, as a public space it is intended for continuous and free public use. They do not rule out commercial activities that serve the public and often contribute to the life of the space. And although they admire the accomplishments of the Restoration Corporation and recognize the charitable intent of the Fashion Show, they do feel that the private appropriation going on needs to be reviewed by New York City and urges investigation of the following:

  • What is the City’s policy concerning commercial use of parks?
  • Who made the decision to make Bryant Park available for occupation by private interests?
  • What is being gained in exchange for limiting the public’s use of the space?
  • What are the financial benefits of these events to the different organizations involved? – the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation? – New York City, including the Parks Department? – the organizers of the event? – private charities? How are the revenues allocated from the advertising posters that ring the park?
  • How has the public and adjacent entities been notified and included in this decision process?
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