Central Park’s iconic Great Lawn closes after damage from Global Citizen Festival, rain

Central Park’s iconic Great Lawn closes after damage from Global Citizen Festival, rain

Saman Shafiq
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The Central Park Conservancy has closed the Great Lawn for public use, a few weeks earlier than scheduled, after it was “damaged” during the annual Global Citizen Festival Sept. 23.

“The Central Park Conservancy is very disappointed that the iconic Great Lawn is now closed and unavailable for New Yorkers to enjoy this fall,” said the Conservancy in a statement. “The use of heavy equipment and intense foot traffic in the saturated conditions from the September 23 concert damaged a large portion of the lawn and fully destroyed a third of it.”

The 12-acre oval of green space, which is one of the Park’s most notable spots and a popular location for gatherings, is expected to remain closed until April 2024 or even after depending on the damages. The Great Lawn is closed each year from November to April for routine maintenance, according to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

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One-third destroyed

Councilwoman Gale Brewer, whose district includes Central Park, in a letter to New York City Mayor Eric Adams said that “the combination of heavy rain, foot traffic, and machinery used for staging destroyed one-third of the Great Lawn”.

“The Central Park Conservatory determined the extent of the damage necessitates immediate closure of the lawn for reseeding,” said Brewer in her letter. “As a result, 12-acres of public green space will be unavailable to New Yorkers until April 2024 or later, all to accommodate a one-day event.”

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Criticizing the festival organizers for going “full speed ahead despite torrential rain,” the councilwoman also requested Adams to reconsider holding the event in the Great Lawn and urged him to the schedule the festival “in a venue other than Central Park, such as an arena or stadium” in the future.

On the other hand, a spokesperson of the Parks department, in a statement to USA TODAY, said that the event organizers properly followed all permitting protocols and are responsible for all costs associated with damages.

“While we share New Yorkers’ frustration, we have had a positive relationship with the Global Citizen Festival producers and are confident any damages will be remedied expeditiously,” the statement reads.

The spokesperson said that NYC Parks cancels permitted events when conditions such as thunder and lightning make them unsafe for attendees. However, in this case, rain before, during, and after the concert event did not jeopardize attendee safety though it did contribute to damage to the Great Lawn.

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Home for 11 years

Meanwhile, festival organizers, in a statement, said that in line with previous years, they are committed to covering the costs of all damages incurred and will be working closely with authorities to assess the extent of the damage.

The statement added that weather conditions and the rainfall over the following days contributed to the damage to the Great Lawn.

Co-Founder and Chief Product & Experiences Officer of the Global Citizen platform Simon Moss told USA TODAY that his organization worked closely with all stakeholders and city agencies to develop plans and ensure the safety and security of everyone onsite, given the weather conditions. He said that the event only went ahead once they got the green light from everyone involved.

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“We have a fantastic partnership with city authorities and we’re going to continue to work closely with them and others to make sure that if there is any damage caused by our event that we can return the lawn to the important state that it holds for all New Yorkers,” Moss said.

Moss also said that he does not have an estimate from the Conservancy of the damages, yet. However, he stated that his organization worked constructively with them before, during and after the event to ensure that all risks and issues were directly addressed, including adding additional flooring, moving flooring and delaying some of the loadout to make sure that there wasn’t damage to the grass.

“We’re proud to have called Central Park at home for the last 11 years since we did our first show in 2012,” Moss shared. “We’ll continue to work closely with them to make sure we can run a safe, fantastic event for everyone involved, and that we can make sure that the park continues to be our home for many more years to come.”

What is the Global Citizen Festival?

Global Citizen Festival is an annual music festival which brings together Global Citizens, artists, activists, world leaders, philanthropists and corporate leaders with the collective mission to end poverty. The event is timed to coincide with the UN General Assembly to “leverage opportunities to get policy and financial commitments from government, corporate, and philanthropic leaders to defeat poverty, demand equity, and defend the planet,” according to the event’s official description.

The concert typically sees about 60,000 people in attendance, the current maximum capacity of the lawn, according to the New York Times. However, this year’s festival operated at around 50 percent capacity due to the weather, a festival spokesperson said.

Saman Shafiq is a trending news reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter @saman_shafiq7.

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