Public-private partnerships and the “pay to play” model

But others see a Gilded Age instead, an echo of Conkling’s era in the reign of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with wide — and growing — disparities between lavish, showplace parks for the haves and cast-off parcels for the have-nots. For every Madison Square, Bryant Park or High Line, there are hundreds of parks that depend solely on the city, and many suffer from scandalous neglect.

“New York has created a two-tier parks system,” complains Geoffrey Croft, president of the watchdog group NYC Park Advocates. “One for the rich, the other for the poor.

Is the push towards park funding and management coming through public-private partnerships, particularly in NYC, further symptomatic of the trend towards NYC (or just our urban areas) becoming a playground of the rich?

Money quote; “No other parks system in America relies as much on other people’s money.” And conservancy models can come with rich rewards, with some chairs earning multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Via Next American City (here)


3 thoughts on “Public-private partnerships and the “pay to play” model

  1. It’s as though you’ve posted this just to bait me into responding… now if you’ll allow me a 2000 word comment (just kidding):

    I would generally say… a resounding yes. I’ve worked for years on several of those second-tier parks and a couple of the first-tier ones and can say that the second tier absolutely do not receive the thoughtful and innovative design and maintenance investment from the DPR (dept of parks and rec) that the bigger, more glamorous parks do. They also don’t receive that investment from the private practitioners hired as consultants either. I didn’t read the article (of course) but I imagine they discuss the money spent on the different types of parks. But this is a very complicated issue. Some factors-

    1. Almost without fail those sexy new parks are totally new parkland being created from derelict industrial terrain. Dealing with that legacy (crumbling structures, contamination, compacted soils, inaccessible sites) is very expensive. Many of these post-industrial sites are near recently gentrified neighborhoods, but that is part policy, part chance.

    2. DPR does actually sink a ton of money into the community parks (it’s just usually in a very rote manner, with little deviation from standard detailing, maintenance, and construction methods permitted). Local council representatives are usually responsible for allocating these funds.

    3. The second-tier is designed by pre-selected firms with a reputation for safe, competent design work. The first-tier is much more open.

    I think a big part of the problem is the way we conceive of parks and recreation. They are only programmed/used for entertainment and play. So they are maintained by disinterested, low-paid workers until a new capital investment is made a generation later. This is not necessarily the best way to program, maintain, and rebuild small community parks. Public-private was one way that was invented and can be appropriate (though Brooklyn Bridge Park and some others do abuse it, and my disdain for the highline is obvious). We need other ways though.

    • of course i did. I actually did think of your recent discussion re: this topic, when i posted…

  2. Pingback: Fred and Rybczynski on the High Line « Thoughts on Everything under the Sun or I am a guilty Secularist

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