Free overnight camping in NYC parks is allowed - but only on select nights, and only if you win the lottery.
The lottery in question is operated by the Urban Park Rangers and it allows families to bring a tent and other useful urban camping gear to spend a night in Central Park, Fort Greene Park, Van Cortlandt Park, Pelham Bay Park, Marine Park, Alley Pond Park or Wolfe’s Pond Park.
A 24-hour online lottery is held for each camping night with about 30 winning entries per event. The NYC camping and lottery dates for 2011:
Location: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
Camp night: July 22