Who Owns Central Park?

central-park collage photo

TreeHugger extolls the virtues of urbanity and density, and the importance of shared public resources like parks. Surely one of the world's greatest is New York's Central Park, where all is not a bucolic urban idyll, but an ongoing war between the cyclists, the runners and the dog owners. Gabriel Sherman covers it in New York Magazine:

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, 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 author]. 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."

From the article it would appear that masses of cyclists have taken over the park, but everyone seems to be complaining about everyone else. "This debate is very emblematic of the challenge all of New York faces: It's about the politics of public space. Who gets that space? And how is it apportioned?"

In the end, we just all have to take Jack Nicholson's advice and ask "Little people, Why we all just get along?" That is what the Parks Commissioner suggests.

"The best thing to do is to expect people to behave like adults and be respectful that your liberties aren't infringing on the rights of others," [Parks Commissioner] Benepe tells me. "People need to behave more like members of a shared society and less narcissistically." ::New York Magazine
TreeHugger on the Tragedy of the Commons
The Tragedy of the Bunnies
Learning From the Past
Cashmere: Sustainable Fiber or Environmental Disaster? :