Yesterday afternoon I walked out of the New York Public Library to find that neighboring Bryant Park had been taken over by a video game corporation, which had fenced off the great lawn to run a heavily branded promotional event. I don't think there's anything that bothers me more than seeing public space taken over by a corporation, and on this lovely evening, with the hundred degree temperatures of last week still an unpleasant memory, it seemed to me especially abhorrent. There are only so many days each season when the weather is ideal for sitting out in the park, and this was one of them. To its credit, the Bloomberg administration pushed Fashion Week out of Bryant Park. This was initially met with huge resistance, but it turns out Lincoln Center is an ideal venue for the designers. That should be a lesson.
I can't help but connect this incident to the present debate about the role of government in our daily lives. The pretense for such incursions of corporate interest into public space is that they provide necessary funding and otherwise bring in the public, if only temporarily. This isn't merely pretense, either; the public-private entities that run our parks do need the money in these days of continual cutbacks and shrinking budgets. Corporations, meanwhile, understand their participation to be altruistic, or at least a service, and not without reason.
It would seem to me that the maintenance of public space is one of the principal obligations of government, and not to be outsourced to corporate interest, at the price of its branding.
Get off my lawn.