The Great Lawn at Central Park will be closed until at least April 2024, following heavy damage to the greenspace caused by last month’s Global Citizen Festival.
The decision was made by the Central Park Conservancy following the free music festival last month, which is put on by the nonprofit Global Citizen each September on the Great Lawn, and this year featured headliners Lauryn Hill and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The festival, which drew tens of thousands of attendees, went on as scheduled despite heavy rain; the combination of foot stomping and machinery presence on the muddy ground caused considerable damage to the Lawn, and “fully destroyed” a third of it. The damage necessitates the need for re-seeding of the Lawn.
The closure was first reported Tuesday by the West Side Rag and confirmed by a spokesperson for the Central Park Conservancy.
“The Central Park Conservancy is very disappointed that the iconic Great Lawn is now closed and unavailable for New Yorkers to enjoy this fall,” the Conservancy spokesperson said. “The use of heavy equipment and intense foot traffic in the saturated conditions from the Sept. 23 concert damaged a large portion of the lawn and fully destroyed a third of it. Our team is now working to restore the lawn, hopefully in time to reopen this spring.”
Global Citizen describes itself as “the world’s largest movement of action takers and impact makers dedicated to ending extreme poverty.” The group claims to have “deployed $43.6 billion in commitments to alleviate poverty over the past decade, “impacting 1.3 billion lives.”
The group has put on the festival — which is free, but requires participants to “take action” fighting poverty to secure tickets — since 2012, drawing some of music’s biggest names as headliners, like Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Ed Sheeran, Janelle Monáe, Cardi B, Coldplay, Pearl Jam, and Queen, among many others.
A spokesperson for Global Citizen noted that the group coordinates with the city and the Conservancy on staging the show, and got the go-ahead from city officials to put on the show despite the rain.
“This year’s rainfall meant closer alignment with City agencies and stakeholders than ever before,” the spokesperson said. “Ultimately, the City of New York, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Central Park Conservancy, determined that this year’s festival should go ahead.”
A spokesperson for the Parks Department said the agency typically would only cancel permitted events due to thunder and lightning conditions, which were not present on the day of the festival. The Parks Department concluded that day’s conditions didn’t jeopardize attendee safety, but found in hindsight that they had caused damage to the park.
“While we share New Yorkers’ frustration, we have had a positive relationship with the Global Citizen Festival producers and are confident any damages will be remedied expeditiously,” said the Parks Department spokesperson.
Global Citizen also said it would cover the costs of any damages, as it’s been doing so since the festival’s launch in 2012.
Local City Council Member Gale Brewer, whose Upper West Side district includes all of Central Park, says the festival has never been a good neighbor. Brewer sent a letter to Mayor Eric Adams on Monday asking that the festival no longer be allowed to take place in Central Park, suggesting “an arena or stadium” instead.
Brewer, who previously served as Manhattan Borough President, said she has “never been a fan” of the festival because the money raised by the organization rarely finds its way to New York City nonprofits.
“12 acres of public greenspace will be unavailable to New Yorkers until April 2024 or later, all to accommodate a one-day event,” Brewer said in her letter to the mayor, first reported by West Side Rag. “I urge you to schedule the Global Citizen Festival in a venue other than Central Park, such as an arena or stadium.”
The Great Lawn is typically closed to the public for maintenance during the colder months of the year, from November to April, according to the Parks Department.