WINTER WONDERLAND: Extending the winter season may sound like non-wishful thinking, but Bryant Park is doing just that.
With Broadway still shuttered and tourists scarce, the Bank of America’s Winter Village at Bryant Park will stretch until early March. Housed behind the New York Public Library, the setup attracted 62 vendors including food, accessories, apparel and gift ones for the regular season.
Instead of closing down after New Year’s Day as in years past, the market will continue for about two more months. Many of the people who set up temporary booths in the park were so pleased that they were doing business, because their business had disappeared in their respective hometowns or cities, that about 25 of them will continue on. Most are located near the skating rink.
Having passive or vacant spaces in Midtown Manhattan has become dangerous during the pandemic, due to an increased number of emotionally disturbed individuals and drug addicts, who are milling about, according to Dan Biederman, who oversees the Grand Central and 34th Street Partnerships.
To make this past fall and winter a success, Bryant Park has created all kinds of programming, Biederman said. On a typical, beautiful sunny day between 4,000 to 5,000 people visit the park but this year 1,300 has been the peak. While still much-reduced compared to the norm, Bryant Park is one of the few places in the city that still offers events on an ongoing basis, Biederman said.
“Partly, we’re drafting off the historic success of Bryant Park as a place where people want to go. We’re trying to make 34th Street have that, too. We had people doing tiny little concerts — playing the piano or a guitar around the edges of Penn Station. We will be bringing that back once the weather improves, because Midtown is still a pretty rough place,” said Biederman, adding that the crime rate is not typically higher as it is in tougher neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. “There is much more street disorder than there was so you have to defend against it,” Biederman said.
In addition to the skating and shopping, visitors can try curling. Offering socially distanced activities is another way to attract people, and capacity crowds have not been an issue thus far. Bank of America also offered a program that provided share spaces to minority-owned businesses, including one that sold clothing for pets that turned out to be a great success, Biederman said. Jewelry, ties and scarves have also been in the mix. Half of the vendors that are staying on are good ones, he said.