Learn more about Central Park
Central Park (urban park (843 acres or 3.41 km²; a rectangle 2.5 statute miles by 0.5 statute mile, or 4 km × 800 m) in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. With about twenty-five million visitors annually, Central Park is the most visited city park in the United States,<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> and its appearance in many movies and television shows has made it among the most famous city parks in the world. It is run by the Central Park Conservancy, a private, not-for-profit organization that manages the park under a contract with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.) is a large public,
Central Park is bordered on the north by West 110th Street, on the west by Central Park West, on the south by West 59th Street, and on the east by Fifth Avenue. Along the park's borders, these streets are usually referred to as Central Park North, Central Park West, and Central Park South, respectively. (Fifth Avenue retains its name along the eastern border.)
The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who later created Brooklyn's Prospect Park. While much of the park looks natural, it is in fact almost entirely landscaped and contains several artificial lakes, extensive walking tracks, two ice-skating rinks, a wildlife sanctuary, and grassy areas used for various sporting pursuits, as well as playgrounds for children. The park is a popular oasis for migrating birds, and thus is popular with bird watchers. The 6-mile (10 km) road circling the park is popular with joggers, bicyclists and inline skaters, especially on weekends and in the evenings after 7:00 p.m., when automobile traffic is banned.
 Early history
Between 1820 and 1850, New York City nearly quadrupled in population. As the city expanded, people were drawn to the few open spaces, mainly cemeteries, to get away from the noise and chaotic life in the city. Before long, however, New York City's need for a great public park was voiced by the poet and editor of the then-Evening Post (now the New York Post), William Cullen Bryant, and by the first American landscape architect, Andrew Jackson Downing, who began to publicize the city's need for a public park in 1844. A stylish place for open-air driving, like the Bois de Boulogne in Paris or London's Hyde Park, felt needed by many influential New Yorkers, and in 1853 the New York legislature designated a 700 acre (2.8 km²) area from 59th to 106th Streets for the creation of the park, to a cost of more than US$5 million for the land alone.
The park was not part of the Commissioners' Plan of 1811.
 Initial development
The State appointed a Central Park Commission to oversee the development of the park, and in 1857 the commission held a landscape design contest. Writer Frederick Law Olmsted and English architect Calvert Vaux developed the so-called "Greensward Plan", which was selected as the winning design. According to Olmsted, the park was "of great importance as the first real Park made in this century—a democratic development of the highest significance…", a view probably inspired by his stay, and various trips in Europe in 1850. During that trip he visited several parks, and was in particular impressed by Birkenhead Park near Liverpool, England, which opened in 1847 as the first publicly funded park in the world.
Several influences came together in the design. Landscaped cemeteries, such as Mount Auburn (Cambridge, Massachusetts) and Green-Wood (Brooklyn, New York) had set an example of idyllic, naturalistic landscapes. The most influential innovations in the Central Park design, were the "separate circulation systems" for pedestrians, horseback riders, and pleasure vehicles. The "crosstown" commercial traffic was entirely concealed in sunken roadways screened with densely planted shrub belts, so as not to disturb the impression of a rustic scene. The Greensward plan called for some 36 bridges, all designed by Vaux, ranging from rugged spans of Manhattan schist or granite, to lacy neo-gothic cast iron, no two alike. The ensemble of the formal line of the Mall's doubled allées of elms culminating at Bethesda Terrace, with a composed view beyond of lake and woodland was at the heart of the larger design.
Before the construction of the park could start, the area had to be cleared of its inhabitants, most of whom were quite poor and either free African-Americans or immigrants of either German or Irish origin. The task of removing the residents fell upon the broad shoulders of the great-great-grandfather of Joe Pepitone. Most of them lived in smaller villages, such as Seneca Village, Harsenville, the Piggery District or the Convent of the Sisters of Charity. The roughly 1,600 working-class residents occupying the area at the time were evicted under the rule of eminent domain during 1857, and Seneca Village and parts of the other communities were torn down and removed in order to make room for the park.Andrew Haswell Green, the former president of New York City's Board of Education took over as the chairman of the commission. Despite the fact that he had relatively little experience, he still managed to accelerate the construction, as well as to finalize the negotiations for the purchase of an additional 65 acres (26 ha) at the north end of the park between 106th and 110th Streets, which would be used as the 'rugged' part of the park.
Between 1860 and 1873, the construction of the park had come a long way, and most of the major hurdles had been overcome. During this period, more than 500,000 cubic feet (14,000 m³) of topsoil had been transported in from New Jersey, as the original soil wasn't good enough to sustain the various trees, shrubs and the plants the Greensward Plan called for. When the park was officially completed in 1873, more than ten million cartloads of material, including soil and rocks which were to be removed from the area had been manually dug up, and transported out of the park. Also included were the more than four million trees, shrubs and plants representing the approximately 1,500 species which were to lay the foundation for today's park.
 20th Century
Following the completion of the park, it quickly slipped into decline. One of the major reasons for this was the disinterest of Tammany Hall, the political machine which was the largest political force in New York at the time.
All of this changed in 1934, when Fiorello LaGuardia was elected mayor of New York City and unified the five park-related departments then in existence, and gave Robert Moses the job of cleaning up. Moses, then about to become one of the mightiest men in New York City, took over what was essentially a relic, a leftover from a bygone era.
Lawns, unseeded, were expanses of bare earth, decorated with scraggly patches of grass and weeds, that became dust holes in dry weather and mud holes in wet…. The once beautiful Mall looked like a scene of a wild party the morning after. Benches lay on their backs, their legs jabbing at the sky….
In a single year, Moses managed to clean up not only Central Park, but also other parks in New York City; lawns and flowers were replanted, dead trees and bushes replaced, walls were sandblasted and bridges repaired. Major redesigning and construction was also carried out; for instance, the existing Croton Reservoir was filled-in so the Great Lawn could be created. The Greensward Plan's intention of creating an idyllic landscape was combined with Moses' vision of a park to be used for recreational purposes—nineteen playgrounds, twelve ballfields, and handball courts were constructed. Moses also managed to secure funds from the New Deal program, as well as donations from the public, thus ensuring that the park got a new lease of life, prospering under the wings of a powerful and new defender.
When Robert Moses stepped down as Park Commissioner in 1960, nobody could replace him and the power and influence he had. During his twenty-six years as a commissioner, he had not only maintained the parks in New York City, but he had also started numerous other projects. When he left, the park gradually began to deteriorate, due to vandalism, littering and graffiti, and varied events scheduled to take place in the park. New Year's Eve celebrations, summer concerts, peace rallies and protest marches, and numerous other arrangements during the sixties resulted in a park similar to what it looked like before Moses took over. The number of crimes committed in the park increased, the funding decreased, and the park looked like it was out of control until the Central Park Conservancy was founded in 1980.
Despite outward appearances, there were several positive aspects of this twenty-year period. The Public Theater introduced its annual Shakespeare in the Park in 1962, and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera initiated their annual summer concerts on the Great Lawn.
By 1975 several advocacy groups joined forces to come up with new ideas for how to take care of the park. In order to gain influence over the direct care of the Park, they approached New York City mayor Edward Koch, and Gordon Davis, the then-park commissioner. Under their leadership, the Central Park Conservancy was founded in 1980, led by chairman Bill Beinecke and Central Park Administrator Betsy Barlow Rogers.
When the Central Park Conservancy started, the founders did not want to create a new organization because of the high costs that formally employing caretakers would incur. Instead, they decided to focus on attracting volunteers for most of the work, as this also would facilitate a campaign to make the people of New York more aware of the park, as well as trying to create a feeling that the park was a major part of the identity of New York.
The conservancy cooperated with the Park Commissioner, and took over all responsibility for the restoration and maintenance of the park, publishing a 1981 paper called "Rebuilding Central Park for the 1980s and Beyond". The document was devised as an early masterplan for the continued development of the park and described the actions needed to restore the park to its former glory.
The paper described three key tasks deemed essential for the park's future survival. The architectural heritage had to be restored—not only the landscape and environment, but also the bridges, buildings and other structures that had fallen victim to twenty years of neglect. In addition to this, the paper also called for an extensive reseeding of grass and constant care for every area of the park, as well as programs that would increase the security around the park—especially at night—and thus attract more visitors.
Over the years, many structures have been restored, and numerous hours have been spent restoring the park. In 2004 alone, volunteers spent more than 32,000 hours working in the park, restoring (amongst others) the Heckscher playground, a thirty-acre area including a building, several meadows, and rock outcroppings.
In addition, the privately-funded construction of the Diana Ross Playground in 1986 demonstrated how non-governmental entities could work to improve the face of the park.
Though Olmsted disapproved of the clutter of sculptures in the park, a total of twenty-nine sculptures have crept in over the years, most of which have been donated by individuals or organizations (and not the city itself). Much of the first statuary to appear in the park was of authors and poets, clustered along a section of the Mall that became known as Literary Walk. The better-known sculptors represented in Central Park include Augustus Saint-Gaudens and John Quincy Adams Ward. The "Angel of the Waters" at Bethesda Terrace by Emma Stebbins (1873), was the first large public sculpture commission for an American woman. The 1926 statue of the sled dog Balto who became famous during the 1925 serum run to Nome, Alaska is very popular among tourists, reflecting in the near polished appearance as the result of being patted by countless visitors. The oldest sculpture is "Cleopatra's Needle," actually an Egyptian obelisk of Tutmose III much older than Cleopatra, which was donated to New York by the Khedive of Egypt. North of Conservatory Water, the sailboat pond, there is a larger-than-life statue of Alice, sitting on a huge mushroom, playing with her cat, while the Hatter and the March Hare look on. A large memorial to Duke Ellington created by sculptor Robert Graham was dedicated in 1997 near Fifth Avenue and 110th Street, in the Duke Ellington Circle.
For 16 days in 2005 (February 12 — 27), Central Park was the setting for Christo and Jeanne-Claude's installation, The Gates. Though the project was the subject of very mixed reactions (and it took many years for Christo and Jeanne-Claude to get the necessary approvals), it was nevertheless a major, if temporary, draw for the park.
Although often regarded as a kind of oasis of tranquility inside a "city that never sleeps," Central Park was once a very dangerous place — especially after dark — as measured by crime statistics. The park, like most of New York City, is quite safer today, though during prior periods it was the site of numerous muggings and rapes. Well-publicized incidents of sexual and confiscatory violence, such as the notorious 1989 "Central Park Jogger" case, dissuaded many from visiting one of Manhattan's most scenic areas.
As crime has declined in the Park and in the rest of New York City, many negative perceptions have waned, and the use of common sense is enough to protect visitors from harm. The park has its own New York City Police Department precinct (Central Park Precinct), which employs both regular police and volunteer citizens. In 2005, such safety measures held the number of crimes in the park—which has more than 25 million visitors annually—to less than one hundred per year; this very low crime rate has made Central Park one of the safest urban parks in the world. Nowadays a large percentage of crimes, particularly assaults, occur between people who know each other, rather than being random attacks.
 Activities in the park
Each summer, the Public Theatre presents free open-air theatre productions, often starring well-known stage and screen actors, in the Delacorte Theatre. Most, though not all, of the plays presented are by William Shakespeare, and the performances are generally regarded as being of high quality since the start in 1962.
The New York Philharmonic gives an open-air concert every summer on the Great Lawn and the Metropolitan Opera presents two operas. Many concerts have been given in the park including the Simon and Garfunkel reunion; Diana Ross, 1983; Dave Matthews Band, 2003.
A long tradition of horseback riding in the park is kept alive by the one remaining stable nearby, Claremont Riding Academy.
The numerous portrait artists who work in Central Park have been interviewed and documented by Zina Saunders as part of her Overlooked New York project.
 Other issues
Permission to hold issue-centered rallies in Central Park has been increasingly stiffly resisted by the mayors. In 2004, the organization United for Peace and Justice wanted to hold a rally on the Great Lawn in opposition to the continued occupation of Iraq. The City denied UFPJ's application for a permit, stating that such a mass gathering would be harmful to the grass, and that such damage would make it harder to collect private donations to maintain the Park; courts upheld the refusal.
Since the 1960s, there has been a grassroots campaign to restore the park's loop drives to their original car-free state. Over the years, the number of car-free hours has increased, though a full closure is currently resisted by the New York City Department of Transportation.
The Central Park Medical Unit is an all-volunteer ambulance service that provides completely free emergency medical service to patrons of Central Park and the surrounding streets. CPMU also operates a rapid-response bike patrol, particularly during major events such as the New York City Marathon, the 1998 Goodwill Games, and concerts in the park. There are 215 bird species in New York City's Central Park.<ref>New York City Economic Development Corporation. </ref>
Central Park has one of the last stands of American Elms in the northeastern U.S., 1700 of them, protected by their very isolation from Dutch Elm Disease. Central Park was the site of the unfortunate unleashing of starlings in North America (cf. Invasive species). Central Park is a popular birding spot during spring and fall migration, when birds flying over Manhattan are attracted to the prominent oasis. Over a quarter of all the bird species found in the United States have been seen in Central Park. The Red-tailed hawk known as Pale Male was the object of much attention by the media, the ornithologist-author Marie Winn and other Central Park birdwatchers.
In 2002 a new genus and species of centipede was discovered in Central Park. The centipede is about four-tenths of an inch (10 mm) long, making it one of the smallest in the world. It is named Nannarrup hoffmani (after the man who discovered it) and lives in the park's leaf litter, the crumbling organic debris that accumulates under the trees.
Since the late 1990s, the Central Park Conservancy, the United States Department of Agriculture, and several city and state agencies have been fighting an infestation of the Asian long-horned beetle, which has been reported in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, including some parts of Central Park. The beetle, which likely was accidentally shipped from its native China in an untreated shipping crate, has no natural predators in the United States and the fight to contain its infestation has been very expensive. The beetle infests trees by boring a hole in them to deposit its eggs, at which point the only way to end the infestation is to destroy the tree.
On June 11, 2000, following the Puerto Rican Day Parade, a "wilding" incident occurred in which gangs of drunken men groped and sexually assaulted women in the park. Several arrests were made shortly after the attacks, but it was not until 2006 that a civil suit against the city for failing to provide police protection was finally settled. , , 
|Avenues of ManhattanMajor|
| To the west|
Central Park West
| To the north|
Central Park North
To the south
Central Park South
| To the east|
|WSH (12) | Riverside | 11 (West End) | 10 (Amsterdam) | Dyer | 9 | 8 or CPW | 7 | 6 or Lenox | 5 | Madison | Park (4) | Lexington | 3 | 2 | 1 | A or York | B or East End | C | D | FDR|
- Central Park is larger than two of the world's smallest nations. It is almost twice as large as Monaco and nearly eight times as large as Vatican City.
- Central Park's twenty-five million annual visitors is more than five times those of the Grand Canyon.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
- Fairmount Park in Philadelphia is actually over 10 times as large as Central Park. Despite this, Central Park has 2.5 times as many visitors.
- The Central Park constitutes its own United States census tract, number 143. According to Census 2000, the park's population is eighteen persons, twelve male and six female, with a median age of 38.5 years.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
- In the second half of J. D. Salinger's famous novel, The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield spends much time in Central Park. This includes skipping stones on the lagoon, visiting museums, ice skating and watching the carousel.
- Edward Albee's play The Zoo Story takes place in Central Park.
- In the movie "The Park Is Mine," Tommy Lee Jones plays a Vietnam veteran who takes over Central Park to generate sympathy for the forgotten soldiers of that war.
- A fictional golf course set in Central Park appears in the game Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 and again in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007
- On Saturday, February 8, 1964, as part of the Beatles first visit to America, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr visited Central Park while entertaining photographers and members of the press. George Harrison stayed back at the group's suite at the Plaza Hotel, due to a bout with Tonsillitis. On Lennon's birthday, October 9, 1985, Yoko Ono helped inaugurate the Strawberry Fields Memorial, created as a tribute to him following his murder on December 8, 1980.
 See also
- The Gates, a land art project realized by Christo and Jeanne Claude in Central Park in the first two months of 2005.
- Shakespeare Garden
- Kelly, Bruce, Gail T. Guillet, and Mary Ellen W. Hern. Art of the Olmsted Landscape. New York: City Landmarks Preservation Commission: Arts Publisher, 1981. ISBN 0-941302-00-8.
- Kinkead, Eugene. Central Park, 1857-1995: The Birth, Decline, and Reneal of a National Treasure. New York: Norton, 1990. ISBN 0-393-02531-4.
- Miller, Sara Cedar. Central Park, An American Masterpiece: A Comprehensive History of the Nation's First Urban Park. New York: Abrams, 2003. ISBN 0-8109-3946-0.
- Rosenzweig, Roy, and Elizabeth Blackmar. The Park and the People: A History of Central Park. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8014-9751-5.
 External links
 Official websites
 Additional information
- CentralPark.com - The complete Guide to Central Park
- Central Park Attractions
- NYC Department of Park & Recreation: Central Park
- Forgotten NY: The bridges of Central Park, photographs and text
- Images of America: The Central Park Zoo, photographs and text
- Central Park Fishing, bass fishing in Central Park
- Car-Free Central Park Campaign
- Olmsted meets Christo: Art in the Park
 Photos, maps, and other images
- Maps and aerial photos
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