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City Parks: The New Playgrounds of the Rich?

Wealthy private donors take the lead in developing New York City projects, such as parks, writes Carol Berens, an architect, author, and real estate agent.
May 15, 2015, 11am PDT | melaniecj
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With New York City and other urban communities facing tight budgets these days, private donors are stepping up to spearhead improvement efforts, especially in parks.

One recent example of this is a $170 million proposed public park in the form of a floating island to be part of Hudson River Park designed by and paid for by wealthy, power couple Barry Diller and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.

In New York, the success of private money supporting public functions was demonstrated with the formation of the Central Park Conservancy, a group that raised private funds to turn the fortunes of that New York City landmark around and now is responsible for more than 75 percent of the park’s annual expenses and all of its improvements.

“Throughout America, cities have relinquished responsibility to build and maintain their public spaces, ceding that authority to independent managers and single-purpose organizations. As a result, the bike paths and clean benches in parks that serve the city at large, especially those in wealthier neighbors, are beacons of civic pride while the basketball courts and sliding ponds of many neighborhood parks remain sad indicators  of urban neglect.”

While many have raised concerns about private entities taking over publicly-funded projects, city-generated funds for local use are discretionary, forcing a variety of projects to compete for those ever elusive dollars.

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Published on Monday, May 4, 2015 in UrbDeZine
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