Bryant Park is a public park of 9.6 acres (39,000 m2), located in Manhattan’s New York City borough. Privately owned, it is located in Midtown Manhattan between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) and 40th to 42nd Streets. The Main Branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL) occupies the eastern half of Bryant Park. The western portion, which includes a lawn, shaded walkways, and facilities such as a carousel, is entirely situated above an underground building that houses stacks of the library. The park hosts many activities during the winter, including a festive “Winter Village” with an ice rink, and shops.
The first site park was opened in 1847, and its proximity to the Croton Distributing Reservoir called Reservoir Square. Reservoir Square housed the New York Crystal Palace, which hosted the All Nations Industry Fair in 1853 and which was burned down in 1858. The square was renamed after William Cullen Bryant, journalist, in 1884. The reservoir was destroyed in 1900 and the Main Branch of the NYPL was built on the site, which opened in 1911. In 1933–1934, Bryant Park was rebuilt to a Lusby Simpson plan. It was rebuilt in 1988–1992 by design firms Hanna / Olin Ltd. and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates after a time of decline, during which the park was renovated and the stacks of the NYPL were installed underneath. The late 20th and early 21st centuries saw further improvements.
Though owned by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, Bryant Park is managed by the private, not-for-profit Bryant Park Corporation, which was established in 1980 and led the Bryant Park restoration. The park is cited as a blueprint for public-private partnerships to thrive. The park is both a listing for the National Register of Historic Places and a landmark recognized by New York City.
The park is managed by Bryant Park Corporation (BPC), also known formerly as the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation (BPRC). BPC also oversees the Bryant Park Management Corporation (BPMC), which was established to manage the Bryant Park district for business improvement.
Though Bryant Park is a public park, BPC does not accept public funds. It was originally funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund but is now receiving funding through tax taxes on adjacent properties within the district of business development, concessionaire fees, and revenue generated by public events. To acquire accurate data about park usage, BPC counts the number of patrons in Bryant Park twice per day, at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
After its reopening, the number of activities at the park increased dramatically, creating some consternation by citizens who believed the park would be owned by private interests and therefore would be unavailable to the public. Consequently, BPC is making most events free and open to the public. An exception was the New York Fashion Week shows that in the winter and late summer each year traditionally took over the park for two weeks.
BPC cofounder Dan Biederman has also expressed publicly his disappointment that the fashion shows are not under BPC oversight. “They pay us a million dollars. It’s a million dollars I would happily do without,” he told the Los Angeles Times. BPC was especially disappointed that the fashion shows overshadowed the park at two critical times: in late summer, when the weather is ideal for visitors to the park; and in early February, the park’s famous free-entry ice-skating rink had to be closed early.