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Bryant Park, Not Public?

July 22, 2009

This caught me by surprise. While sitting on a bench at Bryant Park, sipping my morning coffee, I watched a police officer stop a man from video taping in the park. The man had a modest setup;  an HDV camera, a tripod, and a subject sitting on a bench, presumably about to interview. There were no lights, no crew, no boom mikes or sound technicians.

The reason for stopping the videoing? Bryant Park is not really a public park. It is a park funded primarily with private funding. Filming of any kind requires a permit, according to the police officer. That didn’t seem right to me. Did that mean that no photographs could be taken at Bryant Park without a permit?

I had to look it up. Sure enough, on the official Bryant Park web site it spells the private funding part out clearly:

Bryant Park Corporation (BPC) is a not-for-profit, private management company and a cooperating business improvement district of neighboring property owners. It was established by Daniel A. Biederman and Andrew Heiskell, with support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. BPC was formed to restore historic Bryant Park, which had suffered a severe decline in conditions in the 1970s. A 15-year agreement was signed in 1988, entrusting management and improvements to the BPC. The park reopened in 1991 after four years of renovation with a budget six times the level under prior city management. It is the largest effort in the nation to apply private management backed by private funding to a public park, and it has been a success with public, press, and nearby institutions. BPC shares its management team with the 34th Street Partnership. The two companies share a management philosophy.

Looking around on the Bryant Park web site for filming and photography restrictions, however, I could not find anything. Expanding my search online only produced results showing commercial filming restrictions on the sidewalks surrounding the New York Public Library.

I have to wonder if the two men I saw videoing in Bryant Park would have been stopped if they had not broken out the tripod. Or if their video camera was smaller. Certainly, I have seen scores of tourists and locals video taping and photographing there, often times with decent equipment.

Have you been stopped at Bryant Park? I am one person who would love to hear your story.

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