Public-Private Partnerships for Green Space in NYC


SIPA-14-0005.0 This case examines the history and wider applicability of public-private partnerships (PPPs) for parks. For years, New York City’s Central Park was a neglected dustbowl. But in 1980, a new kind of organization arose to reclaim and restore it: the Central Park Conservancy (CPC), a partnership of private citizens working together with government for a public good. This case starts with the financial crisis of 1975 and builds through the creation of the conservancy under Mayor Edward Koch to the formation in 1999 of the Friends of the High Line, a group of citizens who wanted to convert a disused elevated railroad into a public park. Readers will hear from public-minded citizens like Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, and officials such as former Parks Commissioner Gordon Davis and Central Park Chief of Operations Doug Blonsky.

The case raises for discussion whether and how PPPs can be successful for parks. The CPC made Central Park again the jewel of Manhattan; the High Line opened in 2009 and became an instant attraction, bringing millions of visitors to the neighborhood and its shops, restaurants and galleries. Students should debate what contributed to the success of CPC and the High Line, and whether those can serve as good models for parks in their own cities and towns. Students will also have the chance to question whether the model has limitations, whether it unacceptably favors parks in affluent neighborhoods or relieves public officials of their responsibility to fund the maintenance of public green space. Ask students to identify the advantages of PPS to public managers; to the public; to real estate developers; to park abutters. Are those advantages complementary or in competition? What parameters should a public manager set on a PPP to assure it serves the public interest?

This case can be used in a class/course on public policy, public administration, urban planning, or land use.


This case was written by Ted Smalley Bowen and Adam Stepan for the Case Consortium @ Columbia and the Picker Center for Executive Education, SIPA. The faculty sponsors are Professor of Professional Practice in International and Public Affairs William B. Eimicke, SIPA and Steven Cohen, executive director of the Earth Institute. Funding for the audiovisual piece came from the Lemann Foundation. (0514)

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