A Celebrated New York Park Has 526 Acres and a New Boss
By ROBIN T. DUGGINS
Published: February 10, 2012
WHEN New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver announced plans to tear down the Great Lawn in Central Park, he received a hero’s welcome.
The news came in February 2009. After years of discussion, a deal had been negotiated for the acquisition of the park from the city. The Great Lawn would be preserved, but a new grassy area for basketball practice, along with another green space for exercise, would be built, and the Great Lawn would be turned into a baseball diamond.
A new boss is coming to New York.
The Great Lawn was a public park. In the era of the city-owned park system, such parks were the crown jewels of the system. Today, the system is dominated by privately owned and privately managed greenspaces and baseball diamonds that, while serving the public interest, do not take into account the needs, desires or desires of the city itself.
It was inevitable that the Great Lawn would be replaced as the hub of the city’s athletic offerings. But the park’s replacement — a baseball diamond in Midtown, a grassy green space in Central Park — did not come with the approval of New York City’s elected leaders. Instead, it was the work of Silver, a former investment banker who worked as an executive with The MacAndrews & Forbes Co. Silver had planned the deal for years, and by the time it came to market, he was the city’s second-in-command despite his lack of official title.
The deal was complicated, but Silver got what he wanted. The Great Lawn will never again be the centerpiece of the athletic offerings in Manhattan. But now, after 20 years of debate about what to do with the park and a decade and a half of construction, a new leader takes over the baseball diamond next to the Great Lawn, the new home of the Yankees.
With the New York Yankees’ World Series championship in the books, and their final home game to come here on Friday, it is time for the city to find another way to honor the Yankees. And what has Silver and the rest of the city’s elected officials come up with?
This is the question that most often comes up.