For years, the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park has been in need of extensive repairs. Last week, the city began emergency work to deal with severe water damage to the roof of the bandshell, an 80-year-old half-dome in neo-Classical style that was donated to the city by a banker named Elkan Naumburg. City parks officials say the work is part of an investigation undertaken with an independent structural engineer to determine the extent of water damage and plan for further renovation.
Amy L. Freitag, the deputy parks commissioner for capital projects, said a weatherproof membrane would be placed over the roof to stabilize it and prevent further damage. Meanwhile, summer concerts at the bandshell have been moved to Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center.
On Thursday, Parks Department workers removed a section of the roof's upper cap.
''We were concerned that we saw the dome shift a little bit over the years,'' said Doug Blonsky, Central Park administrator for the Central Park Conservancy, a private group that raises money for the restoration of the park. ''It's important for the restoration to make sure it was safe and figure out how to stabilize it.''
Ms. Freitag estimates the stabilization will take eight weeks and cost about $150,000. After that, city money for the bandshell runs dry, she said. The conservancy, which has hired Robert Silman, a structural engineer who specializes in restoration, to study the roof, says that it, too, does not have more money for the bandshell at this time.
So the Department of Parks and Recreation has turned to the Naumburg family for help in raising money for a full restoration, which is sure to be costly.
The request has not been warmly received. ''It's hard to raise money for something you have no study for,'' said Christopher W. London, a great-grandson of Elkan Naumburg. Mr. London won a court injunction in 1993 to keep the city from demolishing the bandshell and has been pressing the city for a renovation plan. ''You can't come to somebody and ask them to write a check and not tell them what it's for.''
Mr. London is the president of Naumburg Orchestral Concerts, which has been presenting concerts in the park almost continuously since 1905. He has long campaigned against what he calls ''demolition by neglect.''
He said that a week before the stabilization work began, Ms. Freitag asked him to raise $500,000 for the project.
Ms. Freitag said parks officials ''are working on putting together a comprehensive budget, and I assured Christopher he would be the second person to see that.''
In 1993 Mr. London estimated that a full restoration of the bandshell, located in the center of the park just below 72nd Street, would cost around $300,000. When he began talks with the current parks administration a year ago, he guessed that the figure could be as high as $2 million.
''I want to be thrilled that they're fixing up the building,'' he said. ''That's what I've been fighting for all these years. But not knowing what they're doing is worrying.''
Venerable Park Bandshell Falls Silent
July 13, 2003
— Ben Sisario, The New York Times