Facts that will surprise you about Central Park NYC
In the heart of Manhattan, lies a huge oasis of nature in the form of a centric park. Spanning over 843 acres (about 3,411,500 sqm), it is one of the most visited attractions in New York City; You guessed well, it is Central Park NYC!
From its peaceful ponds and lakes to rocky outcrops and dense forests, the park offers a wealth of natural beauty and recreation opportunities. Events such as concerts and rallies are also sometimes held in the park's expansive spaces.
With something to offer to everyone, Central Park is an important part of life in New York and serves as a peaceful haven for New Yorkers. It is the only getaway from the crowd of the city and a place to meet nature up close.
The renovation of the muddy land, plus the several periods of weakening and bad circumstances that encountered the process of developing the park, and the exceptional work of many civic-minded New Yorkers, will fascinate you and will highlight an important part of its history.
What is the Importance of Central Park?
Central Park is an urban park in New York City, located between the Upper East and Upper West Sides of Manhattan. It is the most visited urban park in the United States, with an estimated 42 million visitors annually — Recorded at the end of the year 2016.
It is the most preferable location for filming in the world due to its housing of various botanic species and unique greeny plantation all carefully preserved, in addition to its landscaping layout.
So, what makes the needy of such a huge park?
The population of New York City was growing exponentially in the mid-19th century. A large flood of immigrants from different places in the world was coming to Manhattan and living in very crowded, unhealthy conditions. The City’s urbanism layout, which was at its early stages, came out in 1811, including plans for several small open spaces, but nothing close to the scale of the actual Central Park.
Map showing Central Park location, Photo by: Wikipedia
Keeping this in mind, the City authorities took the initiative and decided to build a Park that would supply New Yorkers with plenty of green spaces and put New York City on the map as a clean and healthy world-class destination.
Brief History of Central Park
In 1853, state officials agreed to purchase the land between Fifth and Eighth Avenues, from 59th to 106th Streets, which was nearly in the middle of the Manhattan peninsula. The plot was firstly rocky and muddy, formerly home to small farms and useless facilities. The Government officials required urgent help transforming this varied landscape into an organized urban park.
But the work didn’t start until a competition was organized to select the best design for the park; Among 33 competitors, the committee selected the Greensward plan, submitted by both Frederick Law Olmsted, a writer and planter from Connecticut, and Calvert Vaux, a young English architect.
|The winning design for the park competition, Photo by: Khan Academy|
The design was extra-naturalistic with large rustic landscapes and forested areas that would provide New Yorkers with a provincial aspect and a relaxation from the city and the mess. One of the main features that distinguished Greensward's plan from others was the usage of lower levels that transverse roads, which our participants buried below the landscapes, out of sight from the Park visitors.
Even though Olmsted wasn’t an architect, and with the help of Vaux, his partner for the competition, their conception for Central Park was mostly inspired by Birkenhead Park, known as the first public park to open in the UK.
Olmsted believed that Central Park should be a space for freedom; A place where people of all backgrounds and ethnicities, rich and poor, women and men, could congregate and enjoy relaxing activities.
|A lot of activities can be pursued in the vast green park, Photo by: www.khanacademy.org|
Construction started on the park in 1858. Workers transported approximately 5 million cubic yards of rocks, earth, and mud. Built 36 bridges and arches (see figure below) and constructed 11 overpasses over the crossing roads. They also grow 500,000 trees, shrubs, and climbers.
|One of the bridges designed by Vaux, inspired by the Gothic style, Photo by: www.khanacademy.org|
It was a huge success. Only months after the works started, the part including the Lake was the first to be opened to the public in 1858. Eventually, Central Park will continue to develop over the next 15 years and will cost $14 million, which is a significant increase from the project’s original $5 million budget.
Unfortunately, politics complicated the maintenance of the Park, and Central Park began to weaken by the early 1900s; Plantings were dying and not replaced, the soil was battered, and pathways and waterways were obstructed. However, Central Park experienced a resurrection if we can say in 1934 when Robert Moses was elected as the NYC Parks Commissioner.
Eventually, Moses received federal funding to proceed with immense planning projects citywide, from which were 19 playgrounds, handball courts, ball fields, and the Wollman Skating in Central Park. (See picture below)
|The Wollman Rink today: People Ice Skating in the Park near high-rise buildings, Photo by: Vlada Karpovich|
But regrettably, Moses resigned in 1960, leaving Central Park without any plan regarding its maintenance. As a result, the Park became flooded by crowds of homeless people, green spaces became dustbowls, benches, and lights broke, playground equipment became unworkable, and the Park’s 100-year-old infrastructure began to deteriorate poorly.
Subsequently, volunteer groups began undertaking the Park projects; In 1979, the first Central Park Administrator was nominated. Later in 1980, many existing supporting groups joined together to establish what they called the Central Park Conservancy in partnership with the City of New York.
The Conservancy continues to maintain and support the Park’s 843 acres and invested nearly $1 billion to restore and sustain the Park, during the past 37 years.
The actual Central Park Map, Photo: biketourscentralpark.com
What Can We Do in NYC’s Central Park?
Some so many things and activities spending a day in Central Park trying to do them all in only 24 hours seems a mission very difficult to accomplish; The following are just a few suggestions to get you started on your tour.
(Note that the activities you might choose can vary from one season to another as well.)
- The Central Park Zoo is always a good choice at any time of the year; One of the most popular activities in Central Park is the Central Park Zoo, also known as the Wildlife Center. A favorite attraction for all is the Indoor Tropical Forest where people can see monkeys swinging from one tree to another and various birds of any kind nesting. Visitors can also view the harbor and the sea lions' deck and assist in feeding. The zoo is also home to many penguins, where visitors enjoy their aquatic shows.
|The sealions’ deck, is the most favorite attraction for kids in the Central Park Zoo, Photo: Tripadvisor|
- One of the favorite things to do in Central Park in the winter season is to ice skate. The park has two ice skating rinks, but the favorite for most people is the Wollman Rink, because of the following reasons: The rink is available from October to April, and it offers daily skating lessons. Visitors can also rent their skates in place. It also offers synchronized skating and ice hockey training.
- In summer Central Park became more overcrowded with cultural activities such as the Delacorte Theater. This open-air theater is located at the heart of Central Park, best known for The Public Theater's Free Shakespeare in the Park. The presentations began in 1954, and occur each summer, and it became one of New York City's most beloved summer traditions. The performances are offered for free and played by talented young actors and actresses.
- Another great thing to do during a day in the park is ride the carousel. The carousel is easy to find on the south end of the park, just listen to the calliope music. The first carousel installed on the site was in 1873 and was powered by real horses and mules. Today, your tour will not be complete if you miss riding the magical carousel of your youngest days and remembering your childhood.
The interior of the Central Park Carousel, Photo: Wikipedia
The Central Park Carousel construction from the outside, Photo: Wikipedia
Today, NYC Central Park receives more than 42 million visitors each year, and many of them are unfamiliar with the Park’s annoying and involved history.
The Conservancy persists in its mission to keep Central Park a beautiful, yet healthy place for generations to come through successful and thoughtful planning—while always honoring and remembering Olmsted and Vaux’s original perception to create a peaceful space for all New Yorkers.