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Who Owns Central Park?

Image composed from the loop in Central Park. (Peter Funch)

Image composed from the loop in Central Park. (Peter Funch)

New York Summer Guide has a great article on the battle for public space going on right now in Central Park. It seems that there is a turf war going on right now between cyclists, runners, dog owners, and, generally, any other mode of locomotion in the park.

It’s shortly before six on a recent morning in Central Park. Dogs frolic, off-leash, through meadows. Joggers breeze along the roadways. In the half-lit hours just past dawn, the park is the urban idyll that its founders, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, envisioned at the park’s birth, 150 years ago.

But then you hear it, approaching in the distance, a stiff wind rustling leaves. The presence grows louder and crescendos until—whooooosh—they’re upon you: a teeming pack of cyclists bursting around the corner in a flash of neon spandex. Runners brandish their fists—or middle finger. Dogs and their owners scramble across the road, lest they be run down by the onrushing horde. It is every biker, runner, or canine for him, her, or itself. Before many New Yorkers have even had their first cup of coffee, the ongoing battle for Central Park is in full swing. “People think the park is a refuge, when you’re actually going into a cage match,” says Chris Yerkes, a Citi staffer who races on an amateur cycling team in the park. “You can liken it to an area which has no local government, no rules,” Manhattan Borough president Scott Stringer told me. The current situation is a New York City case study of the economic phenomenon known as the tragedy of the commons, whereby a shared resource is, inevitably, overexploited. Although interspersed with the tragedy are moments of high comedy.

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The Complete Guide to Central Park

Central Park: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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