Each month, City Parks Alliance recognizes a “Frontline Park” to promote and highlight inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation, and stewardship across the country. The program also seeks to highlight examples of the challenges facing our cities’ parks as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures, and urban neighborhood decay.
New York, NY
Bryant Park is a 9.6 acre park adjacent to the New York Public Library in Midtown Manhattan. Despite its prime location and rich history, the scenic landmark suffered from a high crime rate and lack of visitors in the 1960s – 70s, and mounting concerns led The Rockefeller Brothers Fund to commission a report detailing the degraded state of the park. In 1980, with support and guidance from Mayor Edward I. Koch, the NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation, and the New York Public Library, the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation (now the Bryant Park Corporation) was established to improve the park, with Daniel Biederman and Andrew Heiskell at the helm.
Biederman and Heiskell determined that the primary problem was the lack of use of the park. Visitors were deterred by criminal activity, and the park’s poor visibility and circulation. After initial successes attracting people to the park by providing maintenance, temporary amenities, and free programming, BPC unveiled a master plan to renovate the space, which included a full service restaurant, a great lawn, major repairs, improved lighting, and restoration of public restrooms. Bryant Park now draws an estimated 5 million visitors per year.
In addition to being a magnet for tourists and locals alike, the economic impact of the park’s revitalization was immediately apparent. Following the restoration of the park, rents at 80 West 40th Street went from $11 per square foot to $70 per square foot without improvements to the building. Office rents for buildings bordering Bryant Park command rents 63% higher than rents in buildings a block away. Area retail has seen a vast improvement as well. The park has become a marketing tool rather than a deterrent, with many property owners referring to it as their front or back yard.
Bryant Park is a standout example of New York City’s remarkable urban renewal. What was once an underused, dilapidated town square is now an open, attractive and comfortable seven-day-a-week destination for all park visitors.
For more information on Bryant Park, please visit: