Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Central Park Now Charging For Tours

A Conservancy volunteer leading a free tour last year. The Central Park Conservancy quietly began charging for select park tours yesterday under a pilot program. The Conservancy is providing eight frequently recurring tours for free while now charging for seven ticketed tours.  The organization has a $ 215 million dollar endowment  - not including hedge fund investor John Paulson's recent $100 million pledge.  (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on image to enlarge.

The fundraising move comes less than a week after they began trying to sell virtual spots on the Great Lawn. 

Public/private partnership agreements between the city and organizations like the Central Park Conservancy are increasing coming under public scrutiny due to the enormous disparity between well funded privately maintained parks and those that rely primarily on municipal funding. 


The Central Park Conservancy has quietly begun charging for tours that used to be free.

The Central Park Conservancy is now charging $15,  or $10 for members  for select tours after years of providing many of the same tours without a charge.

About half of the tours will now require the public to purchase tickets, with the proceeds going toward the well heeled group. 

The financially flush Conservancy began the new policy yesterday according to a Conservancy spokesperson who said the group leads 450 tours annually. 

The group said they were unable to estimate the amount of revenue they expect to bring in.

The change in policy was first brought to light by West Side Rag.  

The blog wrote that many of the tours appear to be the same, "the only difference now is that you have to pay for them."

Art in the Park, for instance, was a free 90-minute tour where people got to learn about how the park was constructed. That tour is now offered for $15. The Views from the Past Tour, which has also been around for quite a while as a free tour, now costs $15. And there are few if any free tours on the calendar, at least for the next few weeks." the blog stated.

The  website also points out that the Conservancy gives preference to its own members for various park activities,  including fitness classes. 

Public/private partnership deals such as The Central Park Conservancy are increasing coming under scrutiny due to the enormous disparity between well funded privately maintained parks and those that rely primarily on municipal funding.

The decision to begin charging comes barely two weeks after Comptroller John Liu rejected the city’s new $90 million 10-year contract with the conservancy, which once again brought to the light the organization's $ 215 million dollar endowment  - not including hedge fund investor John Paulson's $100 million pledge.

The fundraising move comes less than a week after they began trying to sell virtual spots on the Great Lawn. 

A Conservancy spokesperson defended the policy.

"The creation of all of CPC’s programs cost money to design, staff and execute,"  a Conservancy spokesperson said in statement.

"We are thrilled to be able to continue to provide the majority of programs and tours at no cost to Park visitors (specifically, CPC provides eight frequently recurring tours and more than 30 recurring programs at no cost to attendees, and seven ticketed tours).

CPC’s mission is to restore, manage and enhance Central Park, creating as many ways as possible for visitors to enjoy this extraordinary public park. Creating tours that delve deep into the Park’s history, design and horticulture (as well as its restoration and management) give visitors another way to get to know the Park and the Conservancy. CPC is responsible for fundraising the majority of the Park’s annual operating budget, as well as the cost of producing dozens of programs and tours. Providing a small number of ticketed tours helps sustain not just CPC’s history of creating valuable programs in Central Park, but also its restoration and maintenance successes."

Read More: 

New York Post -  July 3, 2013 -  By Tara Palmeri 

Crain's New York Business - July 3, 2013 - By Theresa Agovino

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