Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: A Case Study in Private Urbanism: Bryant Park, NYC

  1. #1

    A Case Study in Private Urbanism: Bryant Park, NYC

    Continuing my crusade in favor of private ownership of cities, I wish to present to you a remarkable success of contemporary urbanism, Bryant Park(tm) in New York City.
    Private Oasis in Manhattan
    by Gregory Bresiger

    A small park in the middle of Manhattan stands out at first sight.

    It appears to be cleaner. No matter the time of day one goes for a stroll there, one always seems to come across people cleaning up the place. There are restaurants and sandwich shops doing a brisk business in this park, which is behind the New York Public Library. This little place seems to merit more police than any other park. The police also seem to be vigilant. No one is allowed to lay over the steps. There is no harassment of parkgoers.

    Yet, despite its tranquility, there appears to be much more going on than in the average park. The park has regular concerts. A merry-go-round delights children. There are restaurants and other commercial establishments at both ends of the park. One thinks, this must be the best city park in existence.

    Not exactly.

    This is Bryant Park, which, although still owned by the city, is managed, policed and run by a private corporation, one of the largest experiments of its kind in the nation. This corporation saved this historic park from the depths of degradation. It brought in commerce, which was happy to pay large rents to the corporation because the park has become an urban oasis.

    And, thanks to these businesses, the corporation was able to generate healthy revenues. This money no longer goes into a giant city pot, where much of it would disappear, often misappropriated for crazy projects or sometimes stolen. Under the previous system of city operation, most of the money never would come back to the park. It has been quite a trek for those in the private sector who set out to save this historic park.

    Just a few years ago, Bryant Park was known by most New Yorkers as a dive. This relatively small park, in the middle of one of the most congested areas in the world, was once a notoriously dangerous place. It was famous for its lunchtime drug addicts and dealers who seemed to own this egregious city park. Unless one was a mugger, drug dealer or drug addict, there was usually no reason to go into the park.

    The grim joke among New Yorkers was that the police only went into the park after someone was murdered to identify the victim, then they quickly departed. Now police in the park never depart. That's because Bryant Park has its own police force, which is a private force.
    [...]
    Today Bryant Park is a favorite destination of New Yorkers. It scored a perfect 100%, tied with Madison Square Park for first place, in the New Yorkers for Parks survey.

    They also have free skating in the winter.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    1,150
    Jaws, is the corporation for-profit or not-for-profit? Are people charged to enter? Can anyone enter? How does the income actually work? concession stands and the like? What happens if the corporation does not make money/goes bankrupt? Does the City take it over again? Did the corp. pay for the value of the land or do they simply have a "maintain and operate" contract? Would any private corporation that actually owned the land devote it to park space given its value? The retun on it and the added value to neighboring property can't even begin to equal the development value, right?

    I saw about this park in the 'placemaking' website, in fact I stumbled upon it the last time ( along tiem ago) I was in NYC. Very nice.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  3. #3
    All your answers are in the article mate.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    BC
    Posts
    1,584
    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    All your answers are in the article mate.
    No, they're not. Questions of profit and bankruptcy remain, as well as the fact that the property is still owned by the city. Would the same sort of thing have ocurred if it were owned privately? Given the value of land I suspect it would have been developed.

    I suppose people pay a premium for proximity to parkland regardless of hyper free market or normal free market conditions.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    City of Low Low Wages!
    Posts
    3,236
    ^-- Glad to see they trademarked that.

    Many parks in New York, including Central Park, are now maintained by conservatories. In the case of Central Park the conservatory is funded mostly by the Park Avenue crowd who see it as a way to protect their property values and get a tax break besides.

    The problem is that NYC has found itself unwilling to properly fund the maintence of the parks, and the result is that the parks are being removed from the public realm. The conservatory now decides what is allowed in Central Park and who has access. They are not restricted by the protections against government and police power.

    In poorer communities, the parks are left to rot under the management of the ineffective parks district.

    In Chicago, the parks district has the largest budget per-capita of any big city parks district in the country, even though it has the smallest number of acerage to mantain, per capita. The result is quite stunning:

    Humboldt Park:

    Garfield Park (in the poorest community in Chicago):

    Jackson Park:

    Ping Tom Park:

    McKinley Park:


    It should be noted that none of these parks are downtown or in touristy areas. They exist primarily for the benefit of the people in the neighborhood. They are all publically maintained and many are in very disadvantaged/poor neighborhoods.
    Reality does not conform to your ideology.
    http://neighborhoods.chicago.il.us Photographs of Life in the Neighborhoods of Chicago
    http://hafd.org/~jordanb/ Pretentious Weblog.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Plus
    Registered
    Jun 2003
    Location
    De Noc
    Posts
    18,014
    To help with some of the questions go to

    (PPS) Project for Public Spaces: http://www.pps.org/buildings/info/Mg...gmt_bryantpark

    Bryant Park Restoration Corporation website: http://www.bryantpark.org/
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  7. #7
    Quote Originally posted by abrowne
    No, they're not. Questions of profit and bankruptcy remain, as well as the fact that the property is still owned by the city. Would the same sort of thing have ocurred if it were owned privately? Given the value of land I suspect it would have been developed.

    I suppose people pay a premium for proximity to parkland regardless of hyper free market or normal free market conditions.
    The city still owns the park, the corporation just has a lease on the place. The point however is that a private operator is succesfully capturing the positive externalities created by maintaining an urban park in good conditions where before the public owner was a total failure, and they have also added significant value to it with an ice rink and other activities.

    The same is true of jordanb's Central Park conservatory. The property owners bordering the park know that they have a direct interest in maintaining the park in order to increase the value of their own property. So does the city in fact, but they are incapable of doing the job. Jordan misses the point by saying that all the city needs to do is spend more money. That's not in question here. What's in question is why isn't the money being spent where it should? Because public ownership results in money being wasted on bureaucracy and corruption.

    Private ownership of streets and parks results in an efficient distribution of streets and parks because the private owner wants to maximize his value and minimize his costs. If you look at the privately-developed New Urbanist towns, they have just the right amount of parks and streets of the right quality. They have a building code that limits what the private lots can be used for. This results in the entire town achieving a much greater value for the owner. The owner has internalized the positive externalities of parks, streets and good architecture. People bid up the price of houses there to unimaginable amounts.

    What would happen in case of bankruptcy? The same thing that happens to any private company, assets are liquidated for creditors. What happens when a public town goes bankrupt? The public keeps paying for it.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    1,150
    Bryant Park belongs to the City. It is a public park. The City provided inadequate policing in the bad ol’ 70s and also failed to maintain it properly despite having some budget for it (the fiscal crisis of NYC in the 1970s cannot have helped).

    By ceding control/maintenance of the park to nearby businesses (and residents?), they gave it over to people who cared for it. By running it properly, maintaining it, etc. (and given a very sizeable, rich, captive audience) the ‘locals’ have made a great success of it.

    Without public intervention in the first instance, this park would not exist. The public sector only had to get that right once. It is less good at keeping the value of things long-term because, as Jawsy points out, it does not have a direct hard-cash stake in it. Step in the local community of businesses. A Biz Improve District is in many ways like a small, local, semi-private government; just a more responsive and specialized one. London’s garden squares are a more privatized example of this, though to be fair when they were laid out they were in areas which were then considered virtually suburban. Their shared ownership structure makes them impossible to sell, they are held in trust. I have no doubt that many/mot would have long ago disappeared if they were owned by corporation XYZ.

    There is also the issue of access. A privately controlled park may have requirements by the city to typically let all citizens in. As it is, there seems to be some controversy about Bryant Park being off-limits to the non-paying public for week-long events. What's to stop a privately-owned park from saying 'no teenagers', or 'no lone single men' or 'no arabs' or something crazy like that? I'm quite happy for private property owners to set up their own private parks; but I think that it is good for a city to have large and small public parks. Then find a way to run them that works; I very much support the idea of local businesses/families taking control through a corporation/association. Indeed, It hink one of the main problems with government intervention and the (democratic) political process is 'bundling' which hugely dilutes accountability.

    QUESTION: does the Bryant Park BID have revenue-raising powers (i.e. taxation-like powers) besides the concessions?
    Last edited by Luca; 23 Jan 2006 at 3:48 AM.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  9. #9
    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    Bryant Park belongs to the City. It is a public park. The City provided inadequate policing in the bad ol’ 70s and also failed to maintain it properly despite having some budget for it (the fiscal crisis of NYC in the 1970s cannot have helped).

    By ceding control/maintenance of the park to nearby businesses (and residents?), they gave it over to people who cared for it. By running it properly, maintaining it, etc. (and given a very sizeable, rich, captive audience) the ‘locals’ have made a great success of it.
    None of these are arguments in favor of public ownership. NYC is one of the richest, if not the absolute richest, cities in the world. Why the hell did they have a "fiscal crisis"? Bad management of resources, a problem endemic with all public property.
    Without public intervention in the first instance, this park would not exist.
    There's no way to determine that. There are several privately-owned and built public spaces in New York City, Rockefeller Plaza being the most famous. The reason they could build that space was because they owned most of the properties around it and could therefore capture enough of the positive externality it generated. The bigger the public space, the more properties you need to have in order to make it profitable. That's why all the city's properties should be held privately. Someone who owns all the streets around a square is able to tap the increased property values the square generates.

    I remind you to look at New Urbanism. The parks and streets are built to great expense in order to increase the property values, value that they make direct profit from. A private city works exactly the same way.

    London’s garden squares are a more privatized example of this, though to be fair when they were laid out they were in areas which were then considered virtually suburban. Their shared ownership structure makes them impossible to sell, they are held in trust. I have no doubt that many/mot would have long ago disappeared if they were owned by corporation XYZ.
    They would have disappeared if the owner did not have a stake in all the adjacent properties, which the city does. There are increasing returns to scale in city-building.
    There is also the issue of access. A privately controlled park may have requirements by the city to typically let all citizens in. As it is, there seems to be some controversy about Bryant Park being off-limits to the non-paying public for week-long events. What's to stop a privately-owned park from saying 'no teenagers', or 'no lone single men' or 'no arabs' or something crazy like that?
    The right to exclude is a necessary condition of property. If the administration of Bryant Park couldn't exclude junkies and prostitutes, what value would the park have? If they couldn't close the park at night, how safe would it be? If you're worried about racism, that's an entirely different issue dealing with human rights and discrimination.
    I'm quite happy for private property owners to set up their own private parks; but I think that it is good for a city to have large and small public parks. Then find a way to run them that works; I very much support the idea of local businesses/families taking control through a corporation/association. Indeed, It hink one of the main problems with government intervention and the (democratic) political process is 'bundling' which hugely dilutes accountability.
    This is all well and good until you say "find a way to run them that works." Why do you think they haven't done that yet? The issue hasn't come up at the council meeting? You still have a naive belief in the ability of democracies to act. Why would they change? How would they change?

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 0
    Last post: 08 Jul 2013, 12:55 PM
  2. Replies: 1
    Last post: 24 Apr 2012, 1:37 PM
  3. Replies: 5
    Last post: 30 Jul 2007, 1:26 PM
  4. Case study: Paddington Green (PICS)
    Design, Space, and Place
    Replies: 1
    Last post: 02 Feb 2006, 3:56 PM
  5. Replies: 9
    Last post: 06 Apr 2005, 8:24 PM