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Central Park Wants to Make Wi-Fi Hotspots Permanent

By Amy Zimmer | April 17, 2012 6:41pm
An image from a Parks Department draft presentation of the antennae at the Central Park Zoo.
An image from a Parks Department draft presentation of the antennae at the Central Park Zoo.
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Parks Department

UPPER EAST SIDE — Just in case sunbathers, Frisbee throwers or nannies want to stream Season 2 of "Downton Abbey" or download "War & Peace," Central Park officials plan to make permanent two free Wi-Fi hotspots that were installed six months ago on a temporary basis.

Three antennae top a Central Park Zoo building near East 65th Street.  Just north of Sheep Meadow, two antennae were placed on the Mineral Springs snack bar, which is home to Le Pain Quotidien, Parks Department officials said.

The Parks Department is applying next week to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to have the 20-inch antennae on these two buildings made permanent in the historic park.

There are also temporary antennas at Tavern on the Green, but those were installed under a temporary permit from Landmarks because of the upcoming renovation work at Tavern, Parks officials said.

"We painted them a silver gray to make them blend into the sky," Chris Farnum told Upper East Siders at a recent Community Board 8 Parks Committee meeting. "They are above the roof line, above eye level."

Farnum said it was important to "minimize the visual impact" of the antennae. They also needed to be near a telephone line, he noted.

The service will be powerful enough to download a book or movie, for instance, for parkgoers lazing around green pastures.

Central Park's antennae are part of a larger citywide effort bringing Wi-Fi to 26 different locations in 20 parks, Farnum said.  The service, provided by AT&T — which is free to everyone — has already been up and running in Battery Park, East Harlem's Jefferson Park and the Bronx's Joyce Kilmer Park for nearly a year.

Some preservationist-minded Upper East Siders were less than amped about the antennae in Central Park.

"Technology is welcome," said CB8 member Marco Tamayo, who is an architect. "But this looks like something growing out of the roof … It doesn't fit."

Despite some aesthetic concerns, the committee passed a resolution to support the antennae before it heads to the full board and then the LPC.

Central Park also has Wi-Fi in Rumsey Playfield during Central Park SummerStage concerts from July through early September, Parks officials said.

Many neighborhoods have been clamoring for Wi-Fi in their parks.

Though the AT&T deal did not extend in Manhattan above West 155th Street, the Parks Department last month launched a feasibility study to roll out service in Northern Manhattan in the fall of 2013 through Time Warner cable.