Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg Announces $254 Million Economic Impact of the Gates on New York City
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the estimated economic impact of The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 1979-2005, a work of art by New York artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, on New York City’s economy. Initial data indicates that The Gates attracted over 4 million visitors to Central Park and generated an estimated $254 million in economic activity.
The full economic impact of The Gates was felt not only in areas surrounding Central Park, but in hotels, restaurants, and cultural institutions across the City. The Mayor was joined by business owners and workers impacted by The Gates, and by Deputy Mayor for Administration Patricia E. Harris, Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Central Park Conservancy President Doug Blonsky, NYC Economic Development Corporation President Andrew Alper and NYC & Company President Cristyne L. Nicholas at a press conference held at Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant on Central Park South – where business improved by as much as 200% during The Gates.
“The Gates showcased Central Park and New York City to visitors from around the globe and promoted tourism to the ‘World’s Second Home’,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Innovative public art has the ability to evoke discussion and debate. We are pleased with the excitement and economic activity The Gates generated throughout the entire City. I would like to thank Christo and Jeanne-Claude for their patience and tenacity in realizing their dream and sharing The Gates with all of us.”
“The Gates has been a great celebration of the parks and people of New York City,” said Commissioner Benepe. “Visitors experienced Central Park in an entirely new way and many discovered for the first time the unique beauty of our parks in winter.”
The Central Park Conservancy's attendance count estimates that visits to Central Park reached over 4 million during The Gates exhibit - a substantial increase from the approximately 750,000 visits the Park receives during the same two week period in a typical February. NYC Economic Development Corporation estimates that more than 1.5 million visitors for The Gates were from out of town – an estimated 300,000 of those were international visitors. Usually 13% of tourists are from outside the country but during the Gates, the international share increased to almost 20%.
Increased Hotel Occupancy and Tourism
The Gates drew visitors from around the world during what is traditionally the slowest month for New York City’s tourism industry. Last year, Midtown Manhattan hotels reported occupancy rates of 73.6% with room rates at $194.25. This year, through February 23, those hotels reported occupancy rates of 86.9% with room rates at $223.81. During weekends of The Gates, the occupancy rates were well over 90%. This data translates into an increase in revenue of over $2 million or 18%.
For example, the Amsterdam Inn Hotel, one of Manhattan’s affordable hotels, on Amsterdam Avenue and 76th Street, enjoyed a full house almost every day. The Hotel Deauville New York in Gramercy Park had a 50% higher occupancy rate compared to the previous year. The Four Seasons Hotel New York reported that The Gates transformed one of the slowest months of the year into the strongest February that they had ever experienced. The Waldorf=Astoria, which had forecasted increased demand from The Gates, was surprised by the high number of visitors from throughout Europe, many from Germany, and said the event transformed the hotel into an art lover’s haven. The Essex House, located on Central Park South, the Doubletree Metropolitan Hotel at 51st Street and Lexington and the New York Marriot located in Downtown Brooklyn also reported increased occupancy.
In addition, the NYC & Company Visitor Information Center in Midtown welcomed an average of 739 visitors per day during The Gates from February 12th through 27th, compared to an average of 436 visitors per day, during the first part of the month from February 1st through 11th – an increase of 69%.
New York City tourism is a $24 billion industry that supports nearly 300,000 jobs in all five boroughs. Approximately 50% of the City’s 40 million annual visitors include cultural activities as part of their New York City itineraries. Spending by these cultural visitors produces $12 billion in economic activity citywide on lodging, dining, shopping, entertainment and transportation. International visitors, while comprising only 13% of New York City’s total visitor volume, represent 45% of total visitor spending.
“The Gates not only drew millions of people to Central Park, it attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to New York City,” said Cristyne L. Nicholas. “February hotel occupancy reached peak levels, a new wave of visitors spent money in our shops, restaurants and cultural organizations, and images of New York City were broadcast around the world inspiring future trips to our great city.”
Increased Restaurant Business
Restaurants, large and small, and not just those adjacent to Central Park, reported an increase in patrons during The Gates. Business at Mickey Mantle’s rose almost 110% on weekdays and 200% on weekends. Rosa Mexicano at Lincoln Center reported that lunch business increased 200% and sales are up 30% over last year. Nectar Coffee Shop, which has two locations on Madison Avenue (at 79th and 82nd), reported long lines for tables and a 20-25% increase in sales. Times Square restaurants Blue Fin and Ruby Foo’s and other restaurants in the area such as the Brooklyn Diner, Cafe Fiorello, Tratoria Del Arte, Shelly's NY, and Redeye Grill all saw a significant increases in sales over the 16 days of The Gates compared to the same time period one year ago.
Attendance at Cultural Organizations
The Gates offered an unprecedented opportunity to highlight the City's vibrant cultural community in all five boroughs. Throughout the period of The Gates, many cultural organizations around the City experienced a surge in attendance.
Among those that benefited along Museum Mile: The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, located at 91st Street and Fifth Avenue, reported a 298% increase in attendance compared to the same period last year, as well as increased gift shop and café revenue. El Museo del Barrio, on Fifth Avenue and 104th Street, reported that weekend attendance increased by 100% compared to previous years. The Metropolitan Museum of Art reported a 90% jump in attendance. It also reported that attendance was 35% more than projected and revenue from gift shop and food sales was 16% more than projected. The Museum of the City of New York reported a 78% increase in attendance and an increase in gift shop sales over their January figures. The Museum also sold out of Gates merchandise within days of the beginning of The Gates. In addition, the Whitney Museum of American Art reported a 17% increase in total attendance for the first week of The Gates, and an increase of 150% in the second week compared to the same period last year.
Further south, the Museum of Arts and Design, located on 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, reported a 300% increase in attendance compared to the same period last year, an increase in school group visits, and double the sales in the gift shop. The Dahesh Museum of Art, on Madison Avenue and 57th Street, reported a 233% increase in attendance. Cultural organizations located downtown also reported boosts in attendance. For example, the Children's Museum of the Arts, located in SoHo, reported a 61% increase in attendance over the same period last year; and apexart, a non-profit gallery in Lower Manhattan, reported a 178% increase in attendance compared to the same period last year.
Cultural organizations in other boroughs reported similar attendance growth, particularly in Queens. In the cultural district of Long Island City, the PS 1 Contemporary Art Center reported a 100% increase in attendance and the Noguchi Museum reported a 170% increase in attendance. In the Bronx, the Bronx County Historical Society reported a 20% increase in attendance and an increase in revenues from gift shop sales. Finally, Broadway saw a 17% increase in average ticket sales per show during the first week of The Gates compared to the same time last year.
Business at Park Concessions and Attractions
Central Park has an array of businesses and concessions which rely on visitors. Tavern on the Green reported a 109% increase in business and the Loeb Boathouse reported a 180% increase in business. Snack bars, including Conservatory Waters, which reported a 184% increase, and others such as Mineral Springs and North Meadow snack Bar (both usually closed at this time of year) reported high sales. The Park’s pushcarts reports a 200% increase in sales. The Friedsam Memorial Carousel reported a 128% increase in business, and Wollman and Lasker Ice Skating Rinks reported a 16% increase in business. Manhattan Rickshaw (bicycle taxis) reports that business is up approximately 200%. During the winter, most rickshaw operators do not operate because no business is available. Tours were reworked to highlight more of The Gates. The Parks Department will receive over $543,000 through these concession sales – a 448% increase over a normal February. Revenue generated from all Parks concessions benefits parks throughout the five boroughs.
During the month of February, most of the horse drawn carriages that operate in Central Park suspend their business. During The Gates, all were in operation and report that they were fully booked for rides. One operator, Central Park Carriages, reports a 200% increase in the amount of tours given during this period. The Central Park Zoo reported a 26% increase in attendance compared to the same period last year. The Zoo also reported that gift shop sales were up approximately 140% from the same two weeks last year.
The Central Park Conservancy provided a number of services during The Gates. Visitor centers and kiosks throughout the Park provided information and souvenir products such as posters, T-shirts, and caps. To date, the Conservancy has sold approximately $4 million in Gates merchandise and $70,000 in other merchandise that it offers. During a typical February, the Conservancy sells approximately $15,000 in merchandise. All proceeds from The Gates merchandise benefit Nurture New York’s Nature Inc., a nonprofit supporting arts and the environment, Central Park and other New York City parks. Merchandise continues to be available at The Dairy visitor center and on the Conservancy’s website: www.centralparknyc.org. The Conservancy also offered trolley tours of the Park for over 10,000 people and walking tours throughout The Gates. These tours raised $158,760 to benefit Central Park.
Retail business and businesses that cater to tourism in the city saw dramatic increases as well. The Shops at Columbus Circle at the Time Warner Center, which include Borders Books & Music, Cole Haan, J. Crew and Whole Foods, experienced an estimated 100,000 more visitors each weekend. Some shops saw a 30% to 90% increase in traffic compared to the same two-week period in January. Some merchants beat their plans by over 20%. New York Helicopter, which offers rides over Central Park, reported that business has been up between 35 and 40%.
Beyond the economic impact, New Yorkers, young and old, shared an experience during The Gates. New York City school students of all ages visited The Gates, many through free tours offered through the Mayor’s Office. The Museum of the City of New York provided an area for for nearly 600 students from schools across the City to convene, where they could be greeted by volunteer tour guides. The Department of Education also disseminated an instructional guide to The Gates for students and teachers.
The Central Park Conservancy is currently working closely with over 300 workers, employed by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, to ensure the safe removal of The Gates from the Park, which is expected to be complete by March 15, weather permitting.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude financed the entire cost of The Gates and do not accept any forms of sponsorship. The artists, who do not accept volunteer support, provided paid employment for 1,100 workers – including nearly 700 New York City residents – for the assembly, installation, maintenance, security, and removal of the work of art. They also donated $3 million to the City for programs and operations both in Central Park and other City parks.