New York’s ‘backyard’ is selling out: Central Park’s Great Lawn gets a pricey music festival

The Great Lawn in Central Park has long prided itself on bringing free events to the usual priced-out local citizen. Now, OZY Fest is stirring up controversy.


July 16, 2019

OZY Fest, a weekend-long pop-culture romp with multiple stages for music, comedy, politics, and cooking, starts on the Great Lawn in Central Park next week.

For years, the jewel of the public parks system has held some of the most iconic outdoor performances in New York City, from Dylan to Diana Ross to Pope John Paul II — and most of them have been completely free.

But, with tickets topping out at $400, OZY Fest is pricing out music lovers and taping off portions of the Great Lawn for 9 days in the dog days of solstice — and people are peeved.

Oh the lawns they are a changin’

Officials from the Central Park Conservancy (a close partner of the parks department) and The Trust for Public Land have echoed that denying taxpayers a jaunt on the Great Lawn is certainly out of character.

But, according to the NYT, the festival organizers paid the parks department $1.5m to put on a show featuring the voice of John Legend and the comedy of Trevor Noah.

And, as Wu Tang says, “Cash rules everything around me, get the money.”

The organizers are on the defense

According to an OZY spokesperson, about 40k attendees are expected each day of the festival, half of whom will have received tickets for free.

But, when it comes to for-profit concerts, New Yorkers are most sensitive and territorial over the Great Lawn.

And, more often than not, the parks department listens.

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