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Ask A Native Angeleno: Is Grand Park L.A.'s Answer To Times Square?

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Grand Park ringing in 2014 (Photo by ajpc18 via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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This week's question comes from an Angeleno hoping that Los Angeles could one day have its own TV-worthy New Year's Eve celebration. If you have your own burning question for a Native Angeleno, you can e-mail us using the subject line "Ask A Native Angeleno." It's fine if you want to be anonymous, just let us know which neighborhood you live in.

Dear Native Angeleno,

I saw photos on my Instagram of Grand Park at New Year's Eve. It looked so fantastic! Were you there? Do you think Grand Park will be like Times Square in a few years?

Sincerely,
Ryan Seacrest Ahoy

Dear Ryan Seacrest Ahoy,

In short: no.

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This New Year’s eve, I decided to break with my normal tradition of going to bed at 11:30 p.m. to join my friends at small, placid gathering in Palm Springs. I was, however, in Grand Park for the Fourth of July, and from the photos threatening to overwhelm my own Instagram feed, I can infer that the two nights were similar.

I like Grand Park. Setting aside the fact that there are large streets running through it, that you can’t play soccer in it, that you can't do anything other than sit on a pink bench or run through the pretty fountain and that it’s less a real park (parks are places where you can play soccer) than a place for government employees to take cigarette break. I like parks. I think we should have more of them. Grand Park is a park. Therefore, I like Grand Park.

I’m also in favor of large, public gatherings, and agree that we should have something at least vaguely resembling a ball dropping on New Year’s Eve, complete with minor celebrities, a countdown, and public intoxication. Not to compete with New York, but just to add one more Lincoln log to the general idea that Los Angeles actually is one united city, sort of, and that we share hopes and aspirations and what we do affects each other, sort of. Also, why not?

But Grand Park will never be like Times Square. For one thing, it’s too small: as reported by the L.A. Times, around 25,000 revelers squeezed themselves into the Park, until it reached capacity and the cops were forced to close the gates, well before midnight.

And like Los Angeles itself, Grand Park doesn’t really feel like one park when you’re actually inside of it—the park is split into three sections by Grand, Hill and Broadway, and the sections are at different levels. So there isn’t the long vista that you get in Times Square or, say, the National Mall. It’s basically just three little parks.

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The one thing it really has going for it is that you can take the subway to get there. But I’m bothered by how the whole thing rolls out like a red carpet to City Hall—a terrific-looking building, sure, but still a monument to bureaucratic incompetency. Are these the kinds of symbols we want to start deifying?

I know city fathers and Downtown boosters are trying to make Grand Park the default public gathering space. But surely we can do better.

What about Griffith Park? Or the Santa Monica Pier (once we get that whole Expo Line extension sorted)? Or even the newly chic LA river (once we get the whole revitalization thing sorted)? Or if your heart’s set on Downtown, why not follow the Times Square example more literally and shut down a big chunk of Figueroa? Of course, we’ll need something that happens when the clock strikes midnight...maybe we can engineer a small earthquake? Or light a palm tree on fire?

The truth is, L.A. needs more spaces, better spaces, for large groups of people to congregate. Grand Park simply isn’t big enough, and is a bit too government-centric for my tastes.

Perhaps most importantly, we’ll need a D-list actor and/or disc jockey to oversee the New Year’s Eve proceedings. I hear Diddy is interested, although personally, I was a big fan of the work done by Jamie Kennedy in 2012, aired live on KDOC in what was surely one of the least professional television productions of all time.

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And that is truly the New Year's Eve Los Angeles deserves.

Hillel Aron is a Native Angeleno. Follow him on the twitter at @hillelaron.