A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

There’s that slippery slope now…

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Central Park‘s Bethesda Terrace, long a favorite spot for outdoor musicians, has been designated a “Quiet Zone” by the city Department of Parks and Recreation. That means the Park police can and have been laying hefty fines on performers who favor the location for its good acoustics and high pedestrian traffic. Because, you know, this seems like a really worthwhile reason to crack down in this city. Nothing smacks of law and order like a beautiful plaza in an enormous public park without so much as a note hanging in the air.

Of course, we wouldn’t want to junk up such an old and storied place with riffraff like muuuusicians (that word must be pronounced while holding your nose aloft and pinching your nostrils ever so delicately. If you can raise one eyebrow, do so now). According to Central Park’s official Web site, the designers built the space in 1863 with a very specific and lofty vision:

The two creators’ vision consisted of a place where people could experience nature while holding social gatherings, a place to see and be seen while mingling with like-minded people. It was meant to be an escape from the often stressful and busy urban life of the typical city-dweller.

Admirable! Naturally, as happens with so many such idealistic visions, the square instead became overrun by prostitutes and drug dealers during various decades in the past. Performers have always been there, but they are just one of the last remaining scourges standing in the way of Bethesda’s intended purpose. For what utility could music have in contributing to social gatherings or towards the appreciation of nature or in escaping from the harrowing urban lifestyle?

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Really, I find this development to be sad, not to mention an incredible waste of city resources. Central Park is enormous. If you’re looking for a spot to relax in silence and solitude, there are countless little nooks and crannies where nobody would bother performing and you probably won’t get strangle-mugged. A gigantic, bustling, centralized plaza is not exactly anyone’s first choice for peace and quiet. It is, however, a wonderful place to sit and chat with friends, let your kids run around and scream their little heads off, or just sit and watch the world go by as you listen to free music or watch a creative performance by some hardworking people. Not to mention a good place for a struggling artist to make some change from the countless tourists who pass through each day. It’s beyond me why stifling this type of “noise” seems like a good idea to anybody. To equate park performers with, say, car horns is just tone deaf. Pun intended.

On the other hand, I fully support the fact that the other Quiet Zone is Strawberry Fields, home of the John Lennon memorial across the street from the Dakota. Nobody needs every kid with an acoustic guitar and a few chords under his belt doing his best “Imagine.” Save it for the dorms, buddy, the chicks are going to love you.

Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

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Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

The Nina Archives:

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