by Hazel Heyer
This is now the talk of the town--a green park right at the heart of midtown Manhattan.
Bryant Park, an 8-acre, urban park surrounded by numerous high-rise office towers, retail stores and the New York Public Library, is the latest flavor of the island of Manhattan. It has transformed itself in less than 15 years, from an urban park gone wrong to an urban treasure that plays a role in the revitalization of Midtown Manhattan, specifically 42nd street. This park is located within the boundaries of Manhattan Community District 5 encompassing Midtown, Midtown South, Times Square, Herald Square, Murray Hill and Union Square.
In an effort to eliminate crime, litter, graffiti and unsightly conditions within the district, aid troubled, poor citizens to the benefit of them and their neighborhood and to build quality street and park improvements, Bryant Park was born.
Now thousands of visitors flock to THE park during all times of the day, mostly during lunch; but increasingly the park has successfully attracted an after-houses extended day crowd, one that traditionally vacated the immediate area in the evenings.
"The decision to create Bryant Park was made at the time the city was not providing enough services to satisfy the commercial real estate owners," said Dan Biederman, co- founder, Grand Central Partnership, 34th Street Partnership and Bryant Park Corporation.
In 1980, the Rockefeller brothers formed the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation to prevent the decline of the former Reservoir Square (the site of the former Croton Reservoir now occupied by the library). The BPRC is a not-for-profit, private management company set up to promote the restoration, maintenance and utilization of the park, as well as provide funding and management of the park, in association with the library.
The Bryant Park Management Corporation was set up in 1983, in cooperation with the city, by property owners, tenants and city officials with an interest in the district. Property owners and tenants within the district have agreed to fund the approved activities of the BPMC through assessments levied against real property located within the district and collected by the city. BPMC is an example of cooperation between city, local, business and community interest.
Efforts to restore the park began in 1980 and the major parks renovations and improvements began in 1988 and have included the Great Lawn, tree promenades and planting areas. "For no money invested essentially - only $.5 million at the start (from 1990 through 2001) with a 431:1 ratio of payout versus payback," said Biederman. The BPRC and BPMC received over $31.2 million in revenue. In 2001, both received over $3.7 million of revenue for concessions, restaurant and rental income, assessment and grants.
Bryant Park area is quite popular among young professionals, singles and families who work in the nearby Midtown businesses. Median age of about 32.6 years old will continue to flock to the park. The population around the park area is expected to grow by 3.6 percent and households at 3.4 percent, while Manhattan's population is expected to increase by only .26 percent while households, by.10 percent.
A stringent cleanliness drive definitely made the park a cut above the rest. Females, in particular, were not entering the property or any adjacent ones unless litter is picked up, graffiti is removed, washrooms are clean, security officers enforce rules to potentially stop felony and lightning is sufficient throughout a 16-hour day use of the park, said Biederman.
Lois Weiss, New York Post columnist and chairman of the National Association of Real Estate Editors, said: "Because of clean-up that districts have done, people have come and continue to come and rent in New York. The reason why people want to get situated here is because they know they can make money here; selling to tourists coming from all over the world and to Americans as well who come to New York."
According to Biederman, there's plenty of rooms to move the benches around especially for women who sit outside for hours, plenty of retail outlets with indoor/outdoor restaurants/ cafes and kiosks, including the most elaborate outdoor restaurant, a lot of programs taking place including Broadway shows, Sunday night movies under the stars, to Tai chi groups exercising together (like in Beijing).
The park continues to sustain the real estate growth in Midtown Manhattan which it has done since the 1990s. With it being in the central hub between Grand Central Station and Times Square, the park renovation is a critical factor to the success of the area.
Weiss confirmed since people want to work here, the rents will only keep going up as well. "Nothing is 'going down' here in price, though they may give a bit of concession to people from 2-6 months for rent. Things are still tight," she said.