Randall's Island. For more than three weeks each year the public is denied access to the park's largest picnic area. The lush passive area is the largest open field now that the majority of the island's open spaces have been converted into ballfields. Each year Bloomberg LP is allowed to rent dozens of acres of public parkland to accommodate a private corporate party for thousands of employees and their families. A security guard called it "a private fair ground." (Photos: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.
Public Park, Celebrating Every One? An event map for the Bloomberg LP annual Summer Party (SP). The event's organizers are very careful to avoid using company logos or identification in order to avoid unwanted attention.
By Geoffrey Croft
Each year NYC's hottest and most lavish summer party on public parkland occurs on Randall's Island - only the public is not invited.
For more than a decade Bloomberg LP has taken over dozens of acres of public parkland on Randall's Island - located between East Harlem and the South Bronx - for more than three weeks at a time in order to hold its a private event for thousands of employees and their families. This year's event - Celebrating Every One - boasted an Aussie beach, mechanical surfer, carousel, theme park rides, palm trees, bumper cars, paintball, numerous bars, mechanical bull, bungee swings, a rock climbing wall, vintage car display, numerous stages, aerial performances, a petting zoo, carnival games, volleyball and badminton. Guests could even "Learn to Rap" in a "Batty Rap" workshop.
The price tag for the one-day event, according to a source with knowledge of the arrangements, was nine million dollars.
The one day event takes two and a half weeks to set up and a week to break down. Highlights according to the event's brochure included, Queen VIC PUB, Bollywood Grooves in the Maharaja Chill, and a Live Celtic Band.
Several attendees highlighted Bloomberg's Got Talent - a take on America's Got Talent as a crowd favorite. "Don't miss your peers perform in the Bloomberg's Got Talent showcase," promotional material advised.
Rides large and small accommodate the invite- only crowd. Click here to see hair-raising video of Bloomberg LP guests flying through the air ten stories above the ground on the Swing Ride. "That was so hot," a young woman is heard saying at the end of the ride. "It's so pretty," she says admiring the private/public views her employer rented. Or click to see revelers at the Dance Party.
Culinary offerings included Latin BBQ, a seafood grill, NYC Smash Burger and a dining pavilion, with the theme, "Celebrating Everyone Dining" together.
"Let's Celebrate Together," the map states, "Make Sure Your Plans Include The Sundown Dance Party."
It's all part of Bloomberg LP's annual public land grab on Randall's Island.
Happy Father's Day - June 19, 2011. Access Denied. The Quinones family picnic adjacent to the security fence. "The days of segregation are over," he said pointing to the fence. "Its a slap in the face. Its sad these things are going on. We're supposed to be living as one."
Each year Bloomberg LP makes a "donation" to the Randall's Island Sports Foundation (RISF) to rent out the island's largest picnic and passive recreational area. The practice was started by long time RISF board member and major benefactor Michael Bloomberg. For years Bloomberg LP paid $ 200,000 according to documents obtained by NYC Park Advocates, however that fee was raised to $ 750,000 in 2009 after news of the land grab began to surface. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the majority shareholder of the company.
Celebrating Every One? "He does what he wants," said 39- year-old Bronx resident Henry Ortiz picnicking near the seven-foot high security fence with his family. In the background Bloomberg LP guests disembarked from New York Water Taxi ferries. "It really bothers us. We want to enjoy the entire park but we can't. He takes over the biggest area for families.
Mr. Ortiz said he comes to the park twice a month.
"Look what he did with the 12 years. He does what he wants. He doesn't care," he added.
For the third straight year Production Glue, an agency that "creates unique live events in New York City and across the globe, " handled the event . Since 2007, production glue has been the producer and technical supervisors of the Mayor’s Awards for Arts & Culture with the Mayor’s Office of Special Projects and Community Events and the Department of Cultural Affairs according to their website.
Production glue was involved with the controversial publicity stunt in January which placed capes on 30 statues of historical figures on parkland including Father Francis Duffy in Times Square and Benjamin Franklin at City Hall to promote an NBC show. A company representative would not supply additional information.
This year Bloomberg LP also rented out the mini-golf and half of the driving range from the Randall's Island Golf Center. Guests partied on the upstairs section of the range while hitting balls.
How much did Bloomberg LP pay to rent out this space?"
"Not enough," a Randall's Island Golf Center employee complained when asked for financial details. "They were rude, demanding and they belittled everyone. They feel they can do whatever."
Bloomberg guests however seemed to have a great time.
"It was the best," an excited party reveler said exiting the event with his girlfriend. "It had everything."
Miniature Golf. This year Bloomberg LP rented out this and half of the driving range from the Randall's Island Golf center. Organizers erected a fence with a green screen to prevent the curious public from seeing the action. A park goer (bottom) peeks through a hole in the screen to see what all the fuss is about.
Corn was singled out by several attendees as a favorite culinary delight this year. "I want back for seconds," said one.
Less than a hundred yards away more than a dozen of South Bronx resident Edilberto Quinones's immediate family were picnicking on Father's Day, twenty four hours after the event. A large chain link fence running from the West end of the Golf Center to the waterfront remained firmly in place, preventing the public from accessing the still cordoned off public parkland.
A security guard politely but firmly redirected teens away who tried to access the waterfront.
"They have the power to do whatever they want," said Edilberto Quinones, 53, father of four, grandfather of nine. "No matter what you try to do they don't care."
Mr. Quinones and his son were leaning up against the fence that separated them from the area where Bloomberg had rented the parkland. He said he's been coming to Randall's Island for more than 20 years. His family paid almost twenty dollars in tolls to get three cars to the island.
"It's very hard, its very crowded, and if you want get away from the music you can't, there's no space. The economy is very bad and on top of that they make things very difficult."
"You almost feel segregated," said his son, 31-year-old, Edilberto Quinones, father five who shares his father's name.
"The days of segregation are over," he said pointing to the fence. "Its a slap in the face. Its sad these things are going on. We're supposed to be living as one. "
The Parks Department referred all inquires to City Hall press office. Despite numerous attempts Andrew Brent and Julie Wood refused to respond. A Bloomberg LP representative declined to comment.
Standing Guard. June 18, 2011. This year security personal make sure the general public did not attempt to gain access to the public park land rented out by Mayor Bloomberg's corporation on the other side of a large fence.
Traffic Jam. June 18, 2011. East Harlem and South Bronx residents park cars along a road that has been blocked off by the event. "It's very hard, it's very crowded, and if you want get away from the music you can't, there's no space," said Edilberto Quinones, 53, grandfather of nine.
Bloomberg guests check in.
Reverse side of of event map.
According to several people working at the site all the material from the event is not expected to be removed until the end of the week, "hopefully," said one.
June 19, 2011. "This is a private fair ground and they would prefer no photos be taken," said a man who identified himself as providing security a day after the event.
Packing up the field event station.
South/West tip of Randall's Island. Production tents and backstage area.
June 23, 2011. Waterfront Access Denied. South/West tip of Randall's Island.
Yesterday workers removed wooden planks from the now damaged lawn.
Lawn Care. Thousands of yards of cables were buried underneath the grass throughout the site to accomidate power needs. Workers yesterday filled in the trenches. A red mulch-like material was placed on top.
(Photos: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)
New York Daily News - February 23, 2007 - By Juan Gonzalez