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Consents & Variances

Large events in Madison Square Park

Over the years, Community Board Five's (CB5's) deliberations regarding large events (defined as events that include approximately 5,000 - 10,000 attendees and more) in and around Madison Square Park have been extremely contentious.  From post-parade events and the US Open simulcast event, to the Big Apple Bar BQ, the Board's resolutions and recommendations have been inconsistent and, therefore, confusing, very often with nothing more than philosophical differences as the basis for board members casting their votes.  Since 2004, not only have these recommendations often been in opposition to the previous year's position, but many of the votes have been close, with just over half the board voting one way and close to half voting another.  This raises serious questions about what can be done to deliver clearer messages, cogent analyses and intelligent recommendations regarding future applications for these types of events.

Some of the issues we have struggled with regarding these large events include:

And there are other issues beyond the logistical and practical as well, including:

Food for Thought Beyond the Issues Relating to Individual Events:

Additional, but important, questions also need to be answered: When we know that an event will be approved whether or not we recommend it, what should our role be?  Do we want to stand firm on those events we believe should be denied, or do we work to mitigate the specific disadvantages and problems on an issue by issue basis?  When, if ever, does saying "no" hurt our ability to reduce the negative impact of an event the board has serious concerns about?    What is the threshold for saying "no"?  What weight do we give to the "tradition" of an event?  When, if ever, is it appropriate for the board to recommend broad changes to an application such as a change in location or change of the overall footprint of an event?  What signal does (or can) our action really send?

Means to Accomplish CB5's Goal - Forming of Task Force:

The Community Board seeks long term, strategic and meaningful solutions to the issues surrounding large events.  To that end, in the next few months, a Task Force will be taking on the responsibility of working with the community, residents, businesses, the BID, and the Conservancy to seek feedback and collect information regarding the many large events that request the use of Madison Square Park and/or the surrounding area.  The Task Force will prepare a Report of findings and recommendations that will form the basis for creating guidelines to assist us in reaching consensus regarding these specific applications.

CB5 Action Based on Task Force Report:

We await completion of this Report by the Task Force, its acceptance by the Consents & Variances and Parks Committees as well as the Full Board. At that time, Community Board Five will weigh in on any applications we receive, including the Big Apple Barbecue, that request the use of Madison Square Park and/or the surrounding area for large events.


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