We here at The Observer have been fretting since the fall about what seems to be the growing privatization or semi-privatization of the city’s parks. It’s not that they are not open to the public, but that the park is not necessarily a public project. There are two sides to this.
On the one hand, if we can get others to build and/or maintain our parks, it means more parks for less money and more money for other things, like mass transit or affordable housing or, hell, tax cuts. On the other hand, isn’t this why we have government, to operate on behalf of the public good?
As we most recently reported, this problem has been most apparent on the High Line, where the Friends of the High Line are still trying to figure out how to pay for the park’s continued maintenance while park advocates fret that it will set a precedent for fancy parks only in the wealthier neighborhoods with backers to fund them. Would we really build a High Line in East New York?
Well, it looks like the precedent has indeed been set, as neighboring Hudson River Park, struggling to find funding, may begin to follow in the path of its neighbor, according to The Times. The once-ragtag band that ran Friends of Hudson River Park is prepared to sell out if it means more funds for there waterfront walk.
Using [the High Line] approach as a model of sorts, Friends of Hudson River Park has essentially decided to abandon its activist roots and redirect its energy toward raising money for the park, possibly in exchange for having sections named after donors. Most of the group’s leading figures are yielding their positions with Friends of Hudson River Park to people who will contribute at least $25,000 a year to the park.
The new funds will help the park to continue to grow, so at a time when firehouses are closing and teachers are getting pink slips, it could be worse. Still, what would Frederick Law Olmstead do?