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Like the Champs-Élysées!
January 4, 2014 2:49 PM   Subscribe

Ernest Flagg (1857-1947) was an architect in the United States, who worked mostly in New York, and in 1904 had a radical plan to remake Central Park.
New York's Central Park That Never Was

The American Architect and Building News responded.

The Works Of Ernest Flagg (1902): archive.org, OpenLibrary

Flagg famously designed two buildings for the Singer company, the Little Singer Building, and the main Singer Building, which was at one point the tallest skyscraper in the world.

Flagg was also interested in small houses, some of which still exist on Staten Island.

Flagg worked in the Beaux-Arts style, and his influences can still be seen in his drawings for the Naval Academy at Annapolis.
posted by the man of twists and turns (16 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
But the Champs-Elysees is cold and windy! Very very windy! And a sea of concrete! And loud from all the honking!
posted by The Whelk at 2:57 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


The destruction of that beautiful Singer Building was such a crime.
posted by Auden at 3:11 PM on January 4


I'm glad that didn't happen. I've only visited New York a couple of times, and I don't think I was ever in Central Park, but I still like the idea of an area that large and compact being green inside some of the most expensive real estate on the planet. People can escape from the city in there, at least mentally. You can still see the sky scrapers, but you can forget the streets.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:25 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Wow, I'm very glad that didn't happen. There are many places in the park I go to so that I specifically cannot even tell I'm in the city.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:35 PM on January 4


It was very shocking to me to read that sentiment once in the piece, then again in roomthreeseventeen's comment...that central park embodies some kind of legit escape from an urban environment.

I guess I'm from another world (from the perspective of NYCers) because there wasn't a square inch of the (tiny) park I visited that could have ever been anything resembling nature. With the possible caveat of a heavily filtered macro-field instagram, I guess.

That's just such an insane claim, I can't believe I'm seeing it twice. I mean, New York has some of the best parks in the country, but I guess to you guys, if it's upstate it might as well be on the moon.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 3:53 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


there are definitely some parts of prospect park that could be out of the city if you ignore the drug deals happening a few feet away.....
posted by jpe at 3:56 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


hobo gitano de queretaro, especially up by the Harlem hills, you can be in the park and literally not see or hear any city.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:00 PM on January 4


Dumb idea for Central Park but linear parks are the big thing for green space in cities these days.
posted by octothorpe at 4:01 PM on January 4


I live in a city (Champaign/Urbana) that has a bunch of tiny parks and it sucks. Tiny like you'd never be able to throw a Frisbee. The rumor is that these were created to ensure the entirety of the city is within a certain distance from a park that enables higher jail sentences for criminal activity.
posted by Dmenet at 4:11 PM on January 4


When I realized that Central Park was by far my favorite part of New York City, I knew it was time to move.
posted by freakazoid at 5:08 PM on January 4


Parks like Central Park always seem like a good idea in theory but my city has four more or less Central Park sized parks and I almost never ever go there. It's just trees to me.
posted by octothorpe at 5:17 PM on January 4


Why not demolish all the buildings between Madison and Lex? We would still have Central Park and Park Ave would finally live up to its name.
posted by monospace at 5:19 PM on January 4


New York City has nine more or less Central Park sized parks. And few people go to any of them other than Central Park.

I've been learning a bit about Beaux Arts landscape design in the US, and specifically the NYC area and even more specifically the park where I work in Yonkers which was designed by a Beaux Arts dude and put together about a hundred years ago. The contrast between the guys doing these fairly formal gardens and Olmstead's naturalistic, idealised pastoral parks is interesting. Getting to see the two plans is quite nice.
posted by sciencegeek at 6:23 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Urban parks provide things other than just recreational space. Just because they're not packed with people every day doesn't mean they're a failure or something.

They provide habitats for urban wildlife, they help mitigate the heat island effect, they can help prevent or treat stormwater runoff, etc. And that's without anyone actually using the park for recreational space.

Linear parks probably get more recreational users per acre (although it will be interesting to see if that continues in the future; it could be partly due to linear-park activities like running and biking being popular right now) but they seem to be complementary to, rather than an alternative to, traditional parkland.

And few people go to any of them other than Central Park.

Van Cortlandt seems to get a lot of use, at least the few times I've gone there. It's not as iconic or touristy as Central Park, but it seemed pretty busy. (Even the cricket pitches were in use, which was pretty cool.) The people I was running with claimed that the XC trail is, by some definition anyway, the most heavily-used running course in the world (presumably unpaved one).

The tiny "micro parks" that are very popular in some cities strike me as probably the most underutilized, and frankly difficult to utilize, type of parks. I've always suspected that they're as much a product of tax-writeoff schemes than any honest effort to create public amenities.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:28 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]


I lived quite close to Van Cortlandt for six years. It does get use, but nothing like the use that Central Park gets. Yes, the xcountry course is excellent and the hills are hell. And Lloyd's carrot cake is worth the trip. But I've definitely been there on days and despite taking a long walk, not seen more than a handful of people. Something that is unimaginable in Central Park. Also the use of the park is concentrated in the playing fields and other specifically designed recreational areas - ie the swimming pool in summer.

Central Park gets 35 million
Prospect Park gets 9 million
Bryant Park gets 4.5 million
Van Cortlandt Park gets 2.5 million
Pelham Bay Park 5.6 million
Staten Island Greenbelt 1 million
posted by sciencegeek at 10:26 AM on January 5


But the Champs-Elysees is cold and windy! Very very windy! And a sea of concrete! And loud from all the honking!

This, all this: it's like walking alongside an 8-lane freeway.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:44 PM on January 5


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