At some point in recent years, we’ve lost control of our parks.
In much of New York City, public parks are an embarrassment: ill-kept, dangerous, barren. But in a few corners of the city, mostly in Manhattan, private owners have turned our parks into glistening corporate jewels: think Bryant Park, the High Line, parts of Central Park (funded lavishly by its own conservancy).
Now, a state appeals court has put a temporary halt on the privatization of our public spaces by ordering that work on Pier 55, a $130 million park funded primarily by media billionaire Barry Diller, must stop pending an environmental review.
The City Club of New York has been arguing from the beginning that the Diller park -- for that is what it is -- has been rammed through without proper public input and despite serious environmental concerns stemming from its position atop the Hudson River.
The legal and environmental issues here are complicated and in dispute, but the principle is not: this land, and particularly this river, belong to the public, and we should all be consulted on what we want it to be. These are not decisions that should be made in a boardroom on 18th Street.
After the court decision, the foundation bankrolling the park (essentially Diller and his wife, the fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg) issued a statement attacking the City Club and its “misguided crusade.” The club, said the statement, “is obstructing the will of the local community and undermining a much-needed effort to create new public parks in New York City.”
We think the opposite is true. It’s the private park brigade that is ignoring our communities -- and treating our public space as yet another part of our city that is theirs to run.