Central Park Airport Proposal Brings Internet Fame to Environmental Parodists

A hoax proposal to turn Central Park into an airport has fooled and enraged some. But these internet pranksters actually have something green to say.

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Central Park is New York's largest undeveloped tract of land - an urban oasis for recreation and the arts. It's about time we did something that is actually useful with it, says the Manhattan Airport Foundation, a group committed to "transform[ing] this underutilized asset into something we so desperately need today" - an airport.

More than 19,000 people have signed a petition to bulldoze Central Park to create an airport in the center of Manhattan, eliminating the lengthy trip to JFK and LaGuardia. There are detailed maps, and financial backers. As for our favorite Central Park landmarks - don't worry. In the F.A.Q section of the group's website, it says, "Under the current plan the Imagine mosaic and Strawberry Fields will be preserved, however, they will be located indoors within the main terminal concourse. Tavern on the Green will be given the option of applying for a franchisee lease in the concourse food court."

Ok, take a deep breath before you click "submit comment." No one will be bulldozing the park - it's a hoax. And it's been making the internet rounds, punking sites as big as Inhabitat and the Huffington Post. Even blogs that are in on the joke, but maintain the site's Swiftian, deadpan tone, have found themselves inundated with outraged commenters. It's easy to see why - the site's sleek design and aura of authority make it seem like it's all business, even when you read the fine print about design competitions, fake interviews with descendants of Frederick Law Olmstead, and fears about property values from those who live in a classic six in the Upper East Side.

Most biting of all, though, is the site's environmental commentary. The Manhattan Airport project speaks to those with green motivations, releasing fake news stories about how it has garnered the support of environmentalists for decreasing bird strikes, and addressing its environmental impact in the F.A.Q.:

Research shows that single-passenger car-service and taxi trips between Manhattan and JFK/EWR/LGA account for up to 9% of automobile-created carbon-based emissions in the region. Reducing our environmental impact is a major concern for all of us and preliminary findings indicate that building Manhattan Airport can be a critical first step as we strive to live up to our long-neglected environmental responsibility. The upcoming Manhattan Airport Feasibility Study (2010) will provide a more detailed analysis of these findings and will be published early next year.

So the Manhattan Airport Foundation is comprised of clever greenies, right? Maybe - but considering how they're skewering environmentalists pretty thoroughly, maybe not. The MAF takes aim at mindless environmentalists - the type who would be in favor of cutting 9 percent of automobile emissions while overlooking the fact that an airplane emits several times more. It also takes aim at the type of environmentalist who rejects all but the most Spartan lifestyle in favor of minimizing one's impact - the kind who counts the carbon footprint of long-distance love, or thinks that procreating is environmentally irresponsible. That's exactly the same kind of person who would bulldoze splendid Central Park to cut down on auto emissions, and that's who the MAF parodies, beautifully.