Land Matters: William H. Whyte, Meet Pokemon

In a preview of the November Land Matters column, Landscape Architecture magazine editor Bill Thompson, FASLA, asks, how far is too far when it comes to commercial activities in public parks?

Thompson asks whether it's okay for corporations to "rent" public parks for a day, week, month, to showcase their products. What if the activity means regular users can't comfortably use the park? Or, what if the event is actually fun and brings users to the park?

Thanks to Lisa Speckhardt

Full Story: Land Matters

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privatization of public parks

"Thompson asks whether it's okay for corporations to "rent" public parks for a day, week, month, to showcase their products. What if the activity means regular users can't comfortably use the park? Or, what if the event is actually fun and brings users to the park?"

Actually, the vast majority of "private" events held in Bryant Park--the main subject of the linked article--are both fun and attractive to people. And they are always open to the public (with the exception of Fashion Week, which is likely on its way out). While an event may alter the form or function of the space for a day, regular users--the chess players, office workers and readers, the construction crews, lovers, nappers and executives, the tourists, the students and artists--they adapt; and, it seems, they do so with pleasure and intrigue. Often times, they adapt by participating in the new activity generated by the "private" event.

Bryant Park is arguably the most densely occupied urban park in America--close to 1,000 users per acre during peak hours on sunny days. This fact might make Holly Whtye proud, who's prime indicator for a successful public space was related to its intensity of use. "What attracts people most, it would appear, is other people." (Certainly, this logic is supported by Bryant Park.)

Instead of presupposing that the privatization of a public park neccessarily detracts (potential) users, or produces un-fun atmospheres, or is in some way threatening, it makes better sense these days to promote the benefits of a system that provides a year-round public amenity, and at no direct cost to the taxpayer. Bryant Park, it seems, should be a model for other parks to follow.

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