Friday, April 22, 2011

Why I love NYC #4: Central Park

This one is so non-controversial as to be almost boring, but Central Park is an urban oasis and cannot be overlooked. 

In the mid 1800s, New York was the most populous city in the country and on its way to becoming the capital of the world.  As such, real estate on the island of Manhattan was already proving far more valuable that the load of wampum and muskets that it had been purchased for.  The city was stretching north, with the mish-mosh of lower Manhattan giving way to the delightfully orderly uptown grid.  Yet despite this trend, the city planners had the incredible foresight to carve out almost 850 acres to house an amazing public work.  The original design from Frederick Law Olmsted and English architect Calvert Vaux remains virtually unchanged today.  The variety of flora is breathtaking, with different varietals in bloom for most of the year. 

Organized spaces contrast with the wild Ramble, enormous lawns are flanked by tiny bridges, there's a wide range of playgrounds for the kids.  Central Park houses a sailboat pond, a fishing pond, a couple of my favorite sculptures, a random obelisk, a zoo and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Free concerts draw huge crowds, as do speakers like the Dalai Lama.  Joggers and rollerbladers and enjoy the park paths year round, couples canoodle on benches or blankets, ice skaters flock in the winter and the free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park go like hotcakes. 

Upper East Siders and Upper West Siders each claim the park for their own, but it really belongs to the entire city.  I don't know a person here who doesn't have a fond memory or two of Central Park, and it's a must-hit stop on the tourist circuit.  If only every city could have invested half so well in their public spaces a century and a half ago!

No comments: