Not sponsored by Bill

February 23, 2005

I came home today to find an email from the executive committee of the NYC blogger cabal threatening to break my links1 if I didn't post something about The Gates soon. It seems that I am the only NYC-based blogger yet to post something about the orange invasion. I rushed up to Central Park to see the Gates get some photos.

I don't get it as art. As a draw to the city, however, the Gates are a major success. On Sunday, the 'rents drove in from the 'burbs to walk around the park and experience the gates, but found it impossible to park anywhere near the park. Apparently, everyone in the NY metro area drove in from the suburbs to see the Gates on Sunday. Today, I was surprised to so many people walking around the park at 4:30 on a weekday afternoon. If nothing else, the Gates has drawn people into the city and businesses around Central Park are probably the primary beneficiaries.

Last year, the Republican National Convention was going to be the big draw into the city. Organizers expected that the event would boost tourism revenues for the city and have a positive economic impact. The city estimated the net economic impact of the convention at $255 million. The convention led to a gross gain of $341 million in economic activity, while the City experienced an $86 million loss due to disruptions caused by the convention.

Prior to the convention, the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University estimated the convention would lead to $163 million in net economic benefits ($212 million in spending at a cost of $46 million-- $19 million in lost productivity and $42 million in lost tourism spending.)

While the effects of the convention may have been net positive, businesses that rely on locals, not tourists, suffered during the convention. It seemed like every native who could left the city. Entire offices closed as people took a late summer vacation or worked from home in order to avoid the security. CBS News' Andy Rooney finds anecdotes to suggest that the Republican convention was an economic bust.

In contrast, The Gates seems to be generating only positive economic effects and publicity. Few, if any, locals have left the city while tourists are visiting from all over the world in order to see The Gates. Central Park is much busier on a weekday afternoon in February than it would be without The Gates.

Now, Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff and Mayor Bloomberg are working feverishly to bring the 2012 Summer Olympics to NYC. Will the Olympics benefit the city? Will they drive locals away?

The government of New South Wales evaluated the business and economic benefits of the 2000 Sydney Olympics and announced that "the Sydney Games were a remarkable success that delivered on the expectations of almost all of their stakeholders, public and private." In addition to the equivalent of $6 billion of free publicity for the city, the Sydney metro area was able to procure improved sporting, transportation and hospitality infrastructure.

Perhaps procuring the Olympics will enable the city to obtain funding to complete necessary public transportation improvements such as the Second Ave. Subway and the 7-line extension. But, is building the West Side Jets stadium worthwhile?

In Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums, Roger G. Noll and Andrew Zimbalist find that stadia are not a source of local economic growth and employment and the cost of a new stadium far exceeds any economic benefit of that new stadium. Public financing of a stadium (or of the necessary infrastructure to build a stadium) has non-economic benefits, like prestige and civic pride.

Even though the Jets stadium will be privately financed, the public will foot the cost of a platform over the rail yards and adding a retractable roof to the stadium. The total amount of public financing for this privately-financed stadium will be comparable to the total cost of a complete stadium. If the stadium is tied with the Olympic bid, can the Olympics generate enough net economic gain to recoup the cost of stadium construction?

The Gates is a rare instance of a city directly benefitting from a public art project at minimal taxpayer expense and with minimal disruption of the normal flow of the city.

Finally, here are those photos of The Gates:





Satan's Laundromat has the best series of Gates photographs: Snowy Gates photographed by millions

Space Imaging: The Gates from Space Panorama of The Gates

1Bad pun alert

Posted by Andrew Raff at February 23, 2005 06:30 PM
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