March 9th, 2011

B'klyn plan gives new meaning to 'corporate park'

New York Post

Picture a Brooklyn Bridge Park where you can visit Pampers Playground, then walk along the Target Esplanade past Ikea soccer fields to the Burger King Picnic Area.

In what would be a bold leap from how the city does business at its 29,000 other acres of parkland, officials are considering pawning off naming rights to various attractions inside the cash-strapped, 85-acre waterfront project.

Inspiration for the commercial sponsorship comes from Chicago’s Millennium Park, which opened to rave reviews in 2004, and saw the private sector pick up $220 million of its $490 million tab.

The massive downtown Chicago park is now flooded with corporate-sponsored attractions, including AT&T Plaza, Chase Promenade and the Frank Gehry-designed BP Bridge.

Edward Uhlir, Millennium Park’s executive director, said the green space would’ve been “ordinary and bland” – and half of it likely not built — if naming rights weren’t sold to a dozen sponsors.

“It’s been a successful formula that will be used for other parks in Chicago,” he said.

That formula is one of nine plans now being studied as an alternative to building more high-rise condos at the $354 million Brooklyn Bridge Park to offset an anticipated $16.1 million annual maintenance budget.

While many events in city parks are corporate-sponsored, no city park or sections of parks have ever been named after corporations.

Judi Francis, who heads a grassroots group fighting to keep condos out of the park, doesn’t like the corporate-sponsor model any better.

“Why does Brooklyn have to sell its soul so that struggling businesses can improve their image?” Francis said.

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