Central Park, NYC
A rectangular 843 acres, Central Park sits in the very middle of Manhattan, between 5th and 8th Avenues and 59th and 110th Streets. The first public park in the U.S., it is the flagship of Frederick Law Olmstead’s designs, created in close collaboration with British architect Calvert Vaux. Mostly completed by 1877, Central Park became a model for urban parks around the country. Yet the Park itself was literally created from scratch, with 500,000 cubic feet of topsoil hauled in from New Jersey to cover the land that the city had purchased for $5 million. This initial main construction cost $205 million (in 2009 dollars).
Olmstead and Vaux originally planned for a rural countryside landscape, but through the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses used both New Deal funding and private monies to emphasize recreation, and oversaw the creation of Wollman Rink, numerous ballfields, playgrounds, the Carousel, and the Alice in Wonderland sculptures.
The creation of the Central Park Conservancy in 1980, during Mayor Edward Koch’s administration, ushered in a new era of creative funding, public-and-private partnerships, and restoration after the park had endured the effects of twenty-plus years of concerts, protests, rallies, softball games, and funding problems. While the city issued bonds to raise money for capital projects in the park, the Conservancy secured private funding, initiated needed studies, and put in place various restoration plans, including an innovative zone-management plan, in 1995, that assigned a full-time gardener to 49 different park zones. The Conservancy now secures approximately 85% of the $27 million needed every year to operate and maintain Central Park.
Long a National Historic Landmark, Central Park is now an essential part of the New York experience, with more attractions than you can see in one day. Must-go spots include Strawberry Fields, the Delacourte Theater, the Loeb Boathouse (for boat rentals on The Lake), the Central Park Zoo, Summer Stage concerts, Rumsey Playfield, the Great Lawn, and Wollman Rink. The famous Tavern on the Green restaurant is at the southwest end. The Conservatory Garden is the site for scores of weddings every year.
Central Park contains 58 miles of pedestrian paths, and 21 playgrounds. For bird-watchers, it’s an urban goldmine, as nearly 300 species of migratory birds travel through the park each year.