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‘Million Man Math’ Cost NYC $550,000

Buried in the “Region” section of the New York Times:

Garth Brooks performed in the North Meadow in 1997. Officials said that 750,000 people attended.

Fuzzy Numbers at Bon Jovi’s Park Concert

By Jim Dwyer

July 24, 2008

In recent years, New York City has been going to great lengths to count the numbers of people who attend big events in the parks like rock concerts and Metropolitan Opera performances. One of those efforts literally ran out of gas, though, at the Bon Jovi concert on Central Park’s Great Lawn on July 12.

Admission to the Lawn was by ticket (they were distributed free as part of a commercial promotion), and the city planned to scan the bar code on every ticket to get an exact attendance count.

But there was a problem, according to Doug Blonsky, the president of the Central Park Conservancy: a generator in the park’s command center ran out of fuel. For about 90 minutes, a computer that was supposed to get the scanning data had no power. However, the city was using a second, low-tech counting tactic: parks workers hand counted every person who went through the entrances to the lawn, using clickers. At the end, the hand count showed 48,560 people, while the scanner count was 8,000 less, the Parks Department said.

In any case, the counts from the Jon Bon Jovi concert and a few other recent events show that crowd estimates for past concerts — the 600,000 who supposedly saw Paul Simon, for instance, or the 300,000 who saw Elton John — were vastly overstated.

The number of people who actually attend these events has taken on a charge in recent years because the city would not give a permit to two groups that wanted to hold an antiwar rally in the park in 2004.

With Central Park restored after decades as a big dust bowl, the Parks Department has resisted certain kinds of mass gatherings that once were common. It has permitted opera and symphonic concerts, and some tightly controlled rock concerts.

The decision to exclude the 2004 peace rally was challenged in court, with the groups saying that the park had historically been the host of mass events, with hundreds of thousands of people. Ultimately, the city paid the groups a $50,000 settlement and $500,000 in legal fees. But city officials say that the historical argument shouldn’t carry that much weight because the crowd estimates before 2000 had no basis in reality. The officials remain protective of the lawn — at the expense of free speech on the only suitable open space in Manhattan, critics say.


Bon Jovi performed on The Great Lawn on July 12. The city’s official head count was 48,538 people.

In typical New York Times fashion this article is so badly written most readers will miss an important point. (An outcome, come to think of it, the editors might actually want.)

The translation boils down to this. New York City has spent a huge amount of money restoring Central Park over the last few years and would like to preserve the improvements.

In 2004, the professional America-hating organization United for Peace and Justice wanted to hold a rally on the Great Lawn during the Republican National Convention, with attendance they hoped would top half a million.

The city denied UFPJ’s application for a permit, stating that such a mass gathering would hurt the newly restored lawn and that such damage would make it harder to collect private donations to maintain the park. The courts upheld the refusal.

But the America-haters used the past wildly inflated official crowd numbers to argue that such events had been permitted before.

In truth, however, they had not.

For instance, the Garth Brooks crowd on the Great Lawn (estimated at 750,000) was exactly the same size as the Bon Jovi audience (actually 50,000) in the same venue.

Still, the terrorist supporting UFPJ got the city fathers to settle in the favor and pay them off to the tune of $550,000.

Which should be a lesson to all of us.

Of course one wonders how many of these same America-haters also claim to be friends of the Earth and worshippers of the cult of Gaia?

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, July 24th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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