NEW YORK — Parks workers scrambled today to find spots for people to pitch tents during Liberty Weekend after Mayor Edward I. Koch announced on an international radio show that tourists who can't get hotel rooms for the Fourth of July bash should "come anyway."
Millions of people are expected in the city and adjacent New Jersey points for the four-day celebration during which President Reagan will flip a switch and light up the newly refurbished Statue of Liberty.
Parks Commissioner Henry Stern said the idea to put up people in city parks popped into Koch's head and out of his mouth as the mayor was fielding questions during a live broadcast on the Voice of America network.
Stern added that he instructed his staff first thing this morning to start a survey of available space for tourists. One spot absolutely unavailable for such activities is the sprawling Central Park in Manhattan--the flagship of the city's vast park system.
"No, not in Central Park," Stern said firmly.
VOA news bureau producer Tadas Vasitis said Koch appeared on the program "Talk to America" from noon to 1 p.m. Sunday. The show has a format that allows callers from around the world to call--collect--and ask questions of guests.
On Sunday, calls came in from Sweden, Kuwait, Australia and Israel.
Caller Nils Larsen of Varberg, Sweden, complained to the mayor that he read in a newspaper that all hotels and restaurants were booked for the weekend festivities--focused on the 100th birthday of Lady Liberty. Also planned are history's largest fireworks display and a massive sailing parade with 22 tall ships.
"We're accustomed to crowds and even if they tell you there is no room in the hotels, come anyway," Koch advised on the international broadcast. "We will find places to stay, even if we have to open the parks."
"The mayor had an excellent idea," Stern said, "and now we're going to explore it."