Great fiasco over Central Park’s Great Lawn

Escaping to free public parks and beaches has long been treasured by most New Yorkers.

The gods weren’t pleased.

Security guards at the entrances to Central Park’s Great Lawn. Baseball teams not allowed to use it. Picnickers told to get lost.

The great OZY Fest was poised to take over the Great Lawn last weekend. Yes, one of the city’s most cherished free public spaces was going private.

The festival was to have featured John Legend’s music, Rachel Ray and other celebrity chefs’ cooking tips, plus the wisdom of Spike Lee and Rep. Beto O’Rourke. All for the low, low price of $79 (general admission) to $449 (V.I.P. pass)!

Escaping to free public parks and beaches has long been treasured by most of us. But what we’ve taken for granted is now being threatened, as access is increasingly being denied. It seems we’re on a slippery slope to a Third World mentality, where public spaces are cordoned off into private playgrounds for the rich. OZY Fest was primed to be the latest example.

But hooray! The festival was canceled at the last minute due to the forecast of dangerously high temperatures. Finally, something good about global warming!

Speaking of hot air, Mayor Bill de Blasio was briefly back in town, and made the official announcement of the cancellation mid-Friday afternoon. He would have done it earlier, but it seems he gets up at noon.

When temperatures rose to 97 degrees on Saturday, it became apparent that the mayor made the right decision.

But if the weather hadn’t intervened, de Blasio obviously wouldn’t have, either. Central Park’s Great Lawn was to be closed to the public for nine days! For what? A festival featuring “thought leadership,” which would have been useful to those who thought this was a good idea, including our mayor.

Is it a coincidence that the two most devilishly hot days of the year so far fell on the weekend OZY Fest was scheduled? Do you believe in divine intervention? I do now.

Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t ever want to have to use a credit card to get into my local public park or beach. So let’s pressure elected officials to make sure this doesn’t happen again, before the expressions “no walk in the park” and “no day at the beach” become literal.

Meanwhile, ballplayers, picnickers and taxpayers, welcome back to the Great Lawn!

 Follow playwright Mike Vogel at @mikewrite7.

Mike Vogel