Private Park Parts

The Central Park Conservancy, a private charity formed by philanthropists and activists in 1980 to address deplorable conditions in the park, has been an unbelievable success.

Once a park in disrepair with lawns that were more aptly referred to as dustbowls, Central Park has resumed its rightful place as a major attraction in New York City—thanks primarily to the $430 million in private money that has poured into the park over the last three decades, supplementing (and dwarfing) $120 million in government funds.

After celebrating the success of the project, The New York Times drops the obligatory quote about why private funding cannot work for parks elsewhere:

“The more difficult question,” said Alyson Beha, the [non-profit New Yorkers for Parks'] director of research, planning and policy, “is what about all these other parks that don’t have the private money and are not located in wealthy neighborhoods?”

Most parks don't have the good fortune to be surrounded by highrises full of some of the richest people in the world. But that doesn't make the Central Park model any less instructive for parks everywhere. 

For one thing, people donate to similar preservation efforts all around the globe, not just in their home communities. The Nature Conservancy's home page states front and center: "We're working with you to make a positive impact around the world in more than 30 countries, all 50 United States and your backyard."

But even if people are only willing to donate to park conservation efforts in their backyards, the public option doesn't look too promising at the moment. We Are Out of Money, federal budget woes threaten national parks funding, and many state park systems face funding crises. If you're against privatizing parks, let alone mere public-private partnerships for park management, the alternative may not be publicly-funded parks—it may be no parks at all.

California has slashed funding for its state park system by $11 million for next year alone, as Reason's Harris Kenny has noted, and the state is considering any and all options for privatization or public-private partnerships. Oklahoma has privatized some of its park system in recent years, but federal requirements mire further progress. And Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, and Washington have had to cut services, trim staff, or increase fees.

A 2007 report from the free market environmentalist Property and Environment Research Center also documented the success of the Central Park Conservancy—and not just in Manhattan. Cities around the world—from countries as varied as Brazil, Turkey, and Chile—have followed the Conservancy's blueprint.

As a board member of the Conservancy, John Stossel has documented some of its efforts for Reason.

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  • Ron Swanson||

    I’ve been quite open about this around the office: I don’t want this parks department to build any parks, because I don’t believe in government. I think that all government is a waste of taxpayer money. My dream is to have the park system privatized and run entirely for profit by corporations, like Chuck E. Cheese. They have an impeccable business model. I would rather work for Chuck E. Cheese.

  • Ron Swanson||

    Bring me all of the bacon and eggs you have. Now wait. I think you just heard, "Bring me a lot of bacon and eggs." No. I said, "Bring me all of the bacon and eggs you have."

  • teh rael o2 ||

    obviously all [PARKZ] must be given to the kochs for strip mining, mountian top removal, deforestation, fracking, & toxic waste dumpz.

  • teh rael o2 translator||

    herp derp!

  • o2 live babiee||

    shimmy shimmy coco popz

  • Old Mexican||

    Yeah, that's it.

    Idiot.

  • o2 live babiee||

    made moar centz than herp. sides u dont know what that ref is anyway. generation diff

  • Mr. FIFY||

    The stOOpid is thick in this part of the thread.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Double Asshole,

    made moar centz than herp. sides u dont know what that ref is anyway. generation diff


    Well, I know how to type full and coherent sentences, in a language that is not mine. Can you do the same, Double Asshole?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Most parks don't have the good fortune to be surrounded by highrises full of some of the richest people in the world.

    Most city parks aren't 800 acres large requiring half a billion dollars to gussy up.

  • ||

    Yeah, if you are familiar with Central Park, and its hugeness, go to Boston Common sometime. It's like a single field of Central Park.

    Central Park is fucking massive.

  • ||

    It's just got to have an evil overlord lair underneath it.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    A cardboard box under one of the footbridges?

  • ||

    You have no aptitude for evil overlordship, do you?

  • ||

    Lex Luthor's subway lair is on the orange line.

  • ||

    That's right, but New York has more than one evil overlord, I believe.

  • ||

    See below.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    New York subways don't have color names. The colors on the map are somewhat arbitrary.

  • JD the elder||

    Somewhat arbitrary, but they're grouped by midtown trunk line. All the red lines use the same midtown trunk, all the green, orange, etc.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Actually Gracie Mansion is in Schurz Park.

  • ||

    Bloomberg doesn't live in Gracie Mansion (which is in Carl Schurz Park); he lives on 86th between 1st and York (or maybe 1st and 2nd), I think, which is just down the street from Gracie Mansion.

  • jtuf||

    Close. It has a small castle.

  • kinnath||

    640 acres is one square mile. So 800 acres is one big damn park.

  • kinnath||

    Of course, imagine the market value of one square mile in downtown New York.

  • WTF||

    Yup:
    843 acres (3.41 km2; 1.317 sq mi). It is 2.5 miles (4 km) long between 59th Street (Central Park South) and 110th Street (Central Park North), and is 0.5 miles (0.8 km) wide between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West.

  • barryo||

    Frigging rich folks...gonna see how much they can gussy up their park after we hits them with higher taxes.

  • jtuf||

    And Central Park is full of baroque ornamentation. A community could easily maintain a passive park on a fraction of that budget. My home is next to a patch of green space that the town set aside for a road but never paved. The town just mows and rakes it, but it was still good enough for my friends and I to play soccer on in high school.

  • Lint||

    Private Part Parks would be a much more amusing story.

  • Ska||

    There is a women's topless pulp fiction reading club that frequently meets in central park.

  • JD the elder||

    Wait, what? The only thing that could make this better is if they drink bourbon at the same time.

  • jtuf||

    Sorry, drinking bourbon is illegal in Central Park along with smoking. Well, at least topless women are allowed.

  • ||

    I don't feel comfortable soliciting anonymous oral sex in badly maintained parks.

  • A Serious Man||

    What's ironic is that I read in the news today that some of the Wall Street occupiers have sought shelter from the NYPD at a private park.

    These idiots that are screaming about taxing the rich and class warfare are planning their revolution at a park that is probably funded by the charity of some Wall Street fatcat.

  • ||

    Plainly a ruse on the part of evil plutocrats to gain control of Central Park so they can fence it off and use it for helicopter races and hunting poor people with bazookas.

  • ||

    Can you launch model rockets there? I haven't done that in a while, but finding a field where you can do that is a challenge.

  • ||

    I'm sure you can.

    I'm pretty sure it would bring a shit-ton of pearl-clutching Upper West Siders and baton-swinging cops, as well.

  • Gojira||

    Were your model rockets made in a union factory, and does the rocket somehow give money to poor people? If so, then the answer to your question is, "yes". With a permit.

  • ||

    Probably from China, so inherently mutual.

  • ||

    Bazookas are just not sporting. I prefer to hunt poor people with crossbows. It is a bit more of a challenge and thus more sporting.

  • Warty||

    A real sportsman hunts under-people like he hunts feral pigs: with dogs and Bowie knives.

  • ||

    Don't be a dope. I hunt the poor with only the finest guns.

  • Warty||

    Of course you'd try to foist your foppish accouterments on me. Begone with you.

  • ||

    You're terrible at this "being rich" libertarian thing. You need some training.

  • Warty||

    That's because I'm fucking poor, assface. You may buy me an engraved over-under shotgun if you like, however.

  • ||

    You're really that poor? How gauche. And about as far as I would go would be to buy you this, you barbarian. A Holland & Holland would be wasted in your grubby sausage links.

  • ||

    My Citori shoots like a dream, Epi.

    Almost no recoil.

  • ||

    There's a reason they cost thousands of dollars.

  • ||

    And worth every penny.

  • Britt||

    The Dead Parrot

    At dawn the telephone rings, "Hello, Senor Rod? This is Ernesto, the caretaker at your country house."

    "Ah yes, Ernesto. What can I do for you? Is there a problem?"

    "Um, I am just calling to advise you, Senor Rod, that your parrot, he is dead.

    "My parrot? Dead? The one that won the International competition?"

    "Si, Senor, that's the one."

    "Damn! That's a pity! I spent a small fortune on that bird. What did he die from?

    "From eating the rotten meat, Senor Rod."

    "Rotten meat? Who the hell fed him rotten meat?"

    "Nobody, Senor. He ate the meat of the dead horse."

    "Dead horse? What dead horse?"

    "The thoroughbred, Senor Rod."

    "My prize thoroughbred is dead?

    "Yes, Senor Rod, he died from all that work pulling the water cart."

    "Are you insane? What water cart?"

    "The one we used to put out the fire, Senor."

    "Good Lord! What fire are you talking about, man?"

    "The one at your house, Senor! A candle fell and the curtains caught on
    fire."

    "What the hell? Are you saying that my mansion is destroyed because of a
    candle?!"

    "Yes, Senor Rod."

    "But there's electricity at the house! What was the candle for?"

    "For the funeral, Senor Rod."

    "WHAT BLOODY FUNERAL??!!"

    "Your wife's, Senor Rod. She showed up very late one night and I thought she was a thief, so I shot her with your new Kreighoff Limited Edition Custom Gold Engraved Trap Special with the custom-made Wenig Exhibition Grade Stock. "

    SILENCE........... LONG SILENCE.........VERY LONG SILENCE..............

    "Ernesto, if you scratched that shotgun, you're in deep shit."

  • Copernicus||

    Based on a true story

  • Almanian||

    Savage! We only use recurved, wooden bows in MY Poor People Hunting Club.

    MUCH more sporting than your advanced arrow machine!

  • ||

    Wimps. I just use a scalpel and shake a a bottle of placebos to lure them out.

  • ||

    OhhhHoHo, so you're the bastard that took my ear!

  • tarran||

    Actully, central park was built on the site of Seneca Village inhabited primarily by black freedmen, who were violently evicted in order that the city could take the land.

  • jtuf||

    New Yorkers would never hunt poor people with bazookas. They believe that bazookas are immoral. They also think that using hunting dogs is animal cruelty. That's why they send the police in.

  • Tim||

    When charities out perform government it's time to regulate those charities out of existence:
    1. Eliminate charitable deductions from the tax code.
    2. Use Church and State arguments to disqualify charities with even one non atheist member.
    3. Barrack Obama, mmmm,mmmm,mmmm!

  • ||

    Where I'm from they're called "commons" (yes, I'm from Boston) which derives, I believe, from the notion that they were commonly owned and used and which I choose to distinguish from "publicly", i.e.; government, owned and maintained. If you have direct ownership, however small, you are much more willing to keep it in good condition.

    No surprise to me that this works.

  • Almanian||

    Kind of like the "common" areas in my sub. "We" own them, so "we" take care of them.

    Or, more accuraely, hire it done. [JOBZ] created and/or saved, baby!

    And they look much nicer than he [PUBLICK] park down the street that [OUR] taxes pay for.

  • David E. Gallaher/Ruthless||

    My FaceBook profile pic is of the old Alphonse and Gaston comic characters. My point being that, because of Alphonse (John Q. Public) allowing Gaston (government) to go first with the "giving," Alphonse gives nowhere near what Alphonse COULD give.
    Gaston seriously inhibits Alphonse, and I'll bet Gaston knows this, because Gaston is the one who NEEDS the votes.

  • Old Mexican||

    A 2007 report from the free market environmentalist Property and Environment Research Center also documented the success of the Central Park Conservancy—and not just in Manhattan. Cities around the world—from countries as varied as Brazil, Turkey, and Chile—have followed the Conservancy's blueprint.


    But leaving our parks in the hands of profit-seeking groups, that's so... so... icky! So bourgeois!

  • Neu Mejican||

    Imagine.

    The success is, of course, due to good government working hand-in-hand with the community. The success includes both actors.

    We moderates like these kinds of collaborations.

  • Almanian||

    Yeah, that's what it is

  • ||

    good government working hand-in-hand with the community

    Since your such a good timey, go-along-to-get-along, altruistic sort, would you be as so kind as to reimburse me for the perfectly good lunch I just tossed? With interest, since you're so interested in paying fair shares?

    That load of twaddle is better than Syrup of Ipecac.

  • ||

    I like how an abject failure of government, remedied only with hundreds of millions of private dollars, is a "collaboration."

  • Neu Mejican||

    RC Dean,

    See Tarran above. Created with government power of eminent domain.

    Later, when the city coffers seemed not up to the task, the government and the conservancy formed a public-private partnership.

    If that ain't a collaboration, I don't know what it is. The conservancy certainly sees it as a collaboration.

    The City, in addition to the annual fee to the Conservancy for the services it provides, funds lighting, maintenance of the Park drives and enforcement. The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation retains policy control, has discretion over all user permits and events in the Park, and provides 20 percent of the field staff.

    But don't let reality warp your view of the situation.

  • ||

    Did you just try to paint the violent removal of the previous black landowners as a good thing? I think you did.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Neu Mejican,

    The success is, of course, due to good government working hand-in-hand with the community.


    Wow! Somebody give a prize to the spin doctor!

    Please, spin doctor - give us another one!

  • ||

    The success is, of course, due to good government working hand-in-hand with the community.

    You do know we're talking about New York City, right?

  • Doctor Whom||

    I used to live across the street from a park. While the level of government that owned the park and the level of government that owned the street squabbled over jurisdiction, the locals opened their wallets, rolled up their sleeves, and actually got things done. Yes, I know that that's just one example, but it's just one example that doesn't involve "highrises full of some of the richest people in the world."

  • Tim||

    Contrary to what you might think the name implies, if you actually leave your car there they get quite upset.

  • Rich||

    Everybody knows you drive on a parkway and park on a driveway.

  • jtuf||

    Robert Moses invented the parkway. The idea was to drive through a park to get to a park.

  • Nike Dunk Shoes||

    thanks

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