Central Park Bethesda Fountain Off Limits Now to Performance; Designated “Quiet Zone” Where Musicians are Issued Summonses and Risk Arrest

Central Park Bethesda Fountain

The New York Post reported May 29th on the decision to designate Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain a “Quiet Zone,” putting an end to music performances there and issuing summons to those who defy this. The organization pulling the strings behind this decision is the Central Park Conservancy, the private entity entrusted with the care of this 843 acre public park. This is what happens when a private corporation runs a public park. This clearly has also been condoned by the city’s Parks Department under Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe who was appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Both Bloomberg and Benepe are big proponents of privatization. (The Mayor also lives near by). A spokesperson from the Conservancy told the Post, “The fountain is a place for quiet reflection.”

From the article at The New York Post:

City officials began blitzing street musicians with nuisance summonses and posted a “Quiet Zone” sign last week at the beloved Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, where virtuoso performers have been making beautiful music together for over a century.

On weekends, baritone John Boyd, 48, would belt out spirituals backed by a choir including six of his nine children and fellow classical buskers. But two months ago, Parks police descended on the Bethesda Terrace arcade with a message: Muzzle the music.

Last week, they posted a Quiet Zone sign banning Boyd and other serious musicians from playing in the arcade where world-class performers offer their talents for free to ordinary New Yorkers. …

After being hit with five summonses totaling $2,300, the former choir director from Detroit was arrested by Parks cops Wednesday and hauled in handcuffs to the Central Park police station.

“I have a right to free speech,” said Boyd. “When I sing, it is expressing what I believe in. I told them, ‘You are not chasing me away.’ ”

On Friday, passer-by Rhonda Liss, 63, of Yonkers, asked Boyd if she could join him in an impromptu duet.

“You have such a beautiful voice,” said Liss, a onetime Met opera singer and “Phantom of the Opera” cast member in Toronto. The pair tossed off a jazzy rendition of “My Favorite Things.”

“Is this what they want to arrest people for — singing joy to the people?” she asked incredulously.

When asked about the music crackdown, a spokesman for the Central Park Conservancy, the cash-flush nonprofit that runs the park for the city, said: “The fountain is a place for quiet reflection.”

Interesting thread of comments at the Post site. One commenter says, “Bloomberg should be hauled in front of a court for the crime of destroying the soul of New York City.”

Chanel Park has arrived; Times’ review declares it “a dubious undertaking” and “delusional”

The Chanel handbag advertisement… oops. I mean art installation… has landed in Central Park and will preside there until November 9th. The New York Times writer Nicolai Ouroussoff had some choice words for it last week, stating:

“…if devoting so much intellectual effort to such a dubious undertaking might have seemed indulgent a year ago, today it looks delusional.

It’s not just that New York and much of the rest of the world are preoccupied by economic turmoil, although the timing could hardly be worse. It’s that the pavilion sets out to drape an aura of refinement over a cynical marketing gimmick. Surveying its self-important exhibits, you can’t help but hope that the era of exploiting the so-called intersection of architecture, art and fashion is finally over.

And then:

Opening the pavilion in Central Park only aggravates the wince factor. Frederick Law Olmsted planned the park as a great democratic experiment, an immense social mixing place as well as an instrument of psychological healing for the weary. The Chanel project reminds us how far we have traveled from those ideals by dismantling the boundary between the civic realm and corporate interests.

So what’s the cost to place a 7,500 square foot ad in Central Park?

According to the July 25th Metro, “Chanel will reportedly pay the Central Park Conservancy at least a million dollars for a three-week stay, and the city will collect another $400,000.”

And the Tisch Family paid a paltry $2.5 million to get their name – arguably – forever on the Washington Square Park Fountain…?

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe was asked by the New York Times back in July whether he “anticipated criticism for allowing Chanel to advertise one of its products in the park” to which he replied, “Everything has a sponsor.'”

Well at least everything under Parks Commissioner Benepe and Mayor Bloomberg.

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** This may just be the new “Waterfalls” — hopefully it won’t kill any trees or other living beings.

Note: I’m not advocating that people view this (I’d rather not give Mayor Bloomberg additional reason to tout economic benefits – of dubious projects – that don’t exist.  See also: Waterfalls) but, if you feel you must attend, the installation is free but tickets are reserved online.

* Read Metro’s July 25th story here.

* New York Times advance “slide show” of the “exhibit” which is equal parts art/spaceship/Chanel handbag ad.

*WSP Blog Previous post on this from July 25th.

Photo: Metro Photo Composite

Chanel Park? Parks Commissioner Benepe: “Everything has a sponsor”

Metro NY’s Patrick Arden’s consistent coverage of what’s going on in our City’s Parks is always spot on. In today’s Metro, he covers the NYC Parks Department – via the Central Park Conservancy – allowing a “traveling advertisement for the Chanel handbag” in the middle of Central Park this fall.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Arden writes, “For 150 years, Central Park has been a green refuge in the commercial city. But when a spaceship-like art exhibit lands on 1.5 acres this fall, New Yorkers may wonder whether a commercial enterprise has claimed their oasis.”

So what’s the cost to place a 7,500 square foot ad in Central Park? Well … “Chanel will reportedly pay the Central Park Conservancy at least a million dollars for a three-week stay, and the city will collect another $400,000.”

(And the Tisch’s paid a paltry $2.5 million to get their name – arguably – forever on the Washington Square Park Fountain?)

When Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe was asked by the New York Times whether he “anticipated criticism for allowing Chanel to advertise one of its products in the park … Benepe countered, ‘Everything has a sponsor.'”

Well at least everything under Parks Commissioner Benepe and Mayor Bloomberg.

At the end of the article, Metro provides some suggestions on other ways the Parks Department can maximize parkland for profit:

1. Brooklyn Bridge: McDonald’s can paint the arches golden.

2. Ellis Island: Presented by your local immigration attorney.

3. Washington Square: Sell it to NYU (oops, that’s happened).

* Read Metro’s full story here.

* New York Times “slide show” of the future “exhibit” which is equal parts art/spaceship/Chanel handbag ad.

Photo: Metro Photo Composite