All Around Town+ Statue of liberty
Downtown Tour + Empire State Building
Downtown Tour + Top of the Rock
The park was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Calvert Vaux, who went on to collaborate on Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Central Park has been a National Historic Landmark since 1963.
While much of the park looks natural, it is in fact almost entirely landscaped. It contains several natural-looking lakes and ponds, extensive walking tracks, two ice-skating rinks, the Central Park Zoo, the Central Park Conservatory Garden, a wildlife sanctuary, a large area of natural woods, a 106-acre (0.43 km?) billion gallon reservoir with an encircling running track, and an outdoor amphitheater called the Delecorte Theater which hosts the "Shakespeare in the Park" summer festivals. Indoor attractions include Belvedere Castle with its nature center, the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, and the historic Carousel. In addition there are numerous major and minor grassy areas, some of which are used for informal or team sports, some are set aside as quiet areas, and there are a number of enclosed playgrounds for children.
The park has its own wildlife and also serves as an oasis for migrating birds, especially in the fall and the spring, thus it is a significant attraction for bird watchers. The 6 miles (10 km) of drives within the park are used by joggers, bicyclists and inline skaters, especially on weekends, and in the evenings after 7:00 p.m., when automobile traffic is banned.
The park was not part of the Commissioners' Plan of 1811; however, between 1821 and 1855, 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, was felt to be needed by many influential New Yorkers, and in 1853 the New York legislature designated a 700 acre (2.8 km?) 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 is the largest on Manhattan Island.
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 vehicl
es. 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 all?es of elms culminating at Bethesda Terrace, whose centerpiece is The Bethesda Fountain, 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. 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. The person responsible for carrying out the evictions was the great-great grandfather of future New York Yankee Joe Pepitone.
Central-Park, Winter: The Skating Pond, 1862During the construction of the park, Olmsted fought constant battles with the Park Commissioners, many of whom were appointees of the city's Democratic machine. In 1860, he was forced out for the first of many times as Central Park's Superintendent, and 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, its swampy northeast corner dredged and reconstructed as the Harlem Meer.
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 m?) of topsoil had been transported in from New Jersey, as the original soil wasn't good enough to sustain the various trees, shrubs, and 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.
The Park's transformation under the leadership of the Central Park Conservancy began with modest but highly significant first steps toward reclaiming the Park, addressing needs that could not be met within the existing structure and resources of the Parks Department. These included an initial focus on hiring interns and establishing a small restoration staff to reconstruct and repair unique rustic structures, undertaking horticultural projects, and removing graffiti, under the broken windows premise. Currently "Graffiti doesn't last 24 hours in the park," according to Conservancy president Douglas Blonsky.
By the early 1980s the Conservancy was engaged in design efforts and long-term restoration planning, using a combination of its own staff and consultants. Through this work, the Conservancy provided the impetus and leadership for several early restoration projects funded by the City, while at the same time preparing a comprehensive plan for rebuilding the Park. With the completion of this plan in 1985, the Conservancy launched its first capital campaign. Through the campaign, the Conservancy assumed increasing responsibility for funding the comprehensive restoration of the Park, and full responsibility for designing, bidding, and supervising all capital projects in the Park.
Wollman Memorial skating rink.The restoration of Central Park has been accompanied by a crucial transformation of its management. As the Conservancy rebuilt the Park beginning in the mid-1980s, it instituted a revolutionary new zone-management system, in which Central Park was divided into territories, in which a designated supervisor was held responsible for maintaining restored areas; and as citywide budget cuts in the early 1990s resulted in attrition of the Parks Department staff responsible for routine maintenance, the Conservancy began to hire staff to replace these workers. Management of the restored landscapes by the Conservancy's "zone gardeners" proved so successful that core maintenance and operations staff were reorganized in 1996 and a zone-based system of management implemented throughout the Park, now divided into 49 zones. Consequently, every zone of the Park now has a specific individual accountable for its day-to-day maintenance. Zone gardeners supervise the volunteers assigned to them (who commit to a consistent work schedule), and are supported by specialized crews in areas of maintenance requiring specific expertise or equipment, or more effectively conducted on a parkwide basis.
Today the Conservancy employs four out of five maintenance and operations staff in the Park, and effectively oversees the work of both the private and public employees under the authority of the Central Park Administrator (a publicly appointed position reporting to the Parks Commissioner) who is also the President of the Conservancy. As of 2007, the Conservancy had invested approximately $450 million in the restoration and management of the Park; the organization presently contributes approximately 85% of Central Park's annual operating budget of over $25 million.
The system was functioning so well that in 2006 the Conservancy created the Historic Harlem Parks Initiative, providing horticultural and maintenance support and mentoring in Morningside Park and St. Nicholas, Jackie Robinson and Marcus Garvey Parks