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Central Park
May 31, 2003 8:15 PM   Subscribe

One of America's Great Parks is not a natural wonder at all. It was once a swamp dotted with shanty-towns. It cost more to build than the purchase price of Alaska. At times it has not been pretty, but today it is much more than a crime scene. It is Manhattan's Central Park.
posted by ilsa (17 comments total)

 
Ilsa: here's a Frederick Law Olmsted page, reminding us of his restless talent, of which Central Park is the most heartful legacy. Andrew Delbanco's superb review for the NYRB is sadly pay-per-view.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:25 PM on May 31, 2003


witold rybczynski wrote an article for metropolismag.
posted by kliuless at 8:52 PM on May 31, 2003


One of the things that fascinates me, as someone who loves Central Park, is the perception that outsiders have of it. Does the rest of the country (and world) really see it so much as the place one goes to be mugged or raped, instead of as the really beautiful solace that it is? Even to think ahead and set aside that much of this island seems like a beautiful thing to me.

Also, it'll have wifi soon, according to rumors. Then I can sully it with the presence of me and my laptop.
posted by anildash at 9:23 PM on May 31, 2003


I love Central Park. I wish Los Angeles had something like it. Yeah, I know Griffith Park is here, but Central Park felt like it was part of New York- Griffith feels like a bunch of land that happens to be in LA.
posted by dogwelder at 9:55 PM on May 31, 2003


anildash, I used to believe those terrible things long ago, until I visited Central Park in order to see a concert and I realized that I had been been giving extremely inaccurate information. It turned out that my prejudice about the subway was similarly unfounded.

NYC is one of my most common travel destinations for both business and pleasure, and the one thing I always visit is Central Park. It's just such a unique experience being able to go for my morning jog in such an idyllic setting, when the rest of the city is so thoroughly paved.
posted by mosch at 12:20 AM on June 1, 2003


Does the rest of the country (and world) really see it so much as the place one goes to be mugged or raped, instead of as the really beautiful solace that it is?

Yes. I'd sooner walk into the Korean DMZ or an Iraqi combat zone. Without more information, I'd consider walking unarmed (or lightly armed, or without a fully armed military division for an armed escort) into Central Park to be an act of stupidity on par with touring Harlam in a white robe with a pointy white hat.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:24 AM on June 1, 2003


This line totally threw me for a loop on a quick skim: Cities such as Albany and Buffalo in New York state, Louisville, Kentucky, Montreal, Canada, Boston, Massachusetts, and San Francisco, California..." - I thought good old CNN had just called Canada a city. Much as I deplore the legions of semicolons being deployed, perhaps a judicious use of them here would be useful. Other than that, fun post.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 5:56 AM on June 1, 2003


It's just such a unique experience being able to go for my morning jog in such an idyllic setting, when the rest of the city is so thoroughly paved.

The first section of a fine new (though mostly paved) park in which to jog just opened in lower Manhattan.

It turned out that my prejudice about the subway was similarly unfounded.

We like to think of it as a place to pick up works by Picasso at bargain basement prices.
posted by liam at 6:10 AM on June 1, 2003


I once spent an afternoon in Central Park with friends, on an amazingly sunny, warm Sunday in late October. Everything was perfect. It was one of those life moments that come out of the blue - reminding you how good life can be.
posted by davebush at 6:18 AM on June 1, 2003


Olmstead and Vaux also designed Brooklyn's very different Prospect Park. It's design is aimed to create more of a bucolic getaway feeling (prospects and vistas) rather than the combo of urban/pastoral that characterizes Central Park. A different experience, but well worth a subway ride on a nice day for you Manhattanites.
posted by BT at 9:22 AM on June 1, 2003


aack -- sorry about the "it's" for "its."
posted by BT at 9:22 AM on June 1, 2003


I'd consider walking unarmed (or lightly armed, or without a fully armed military division for an armed escort) into Central Park to be an act of stupidity on par with touring Harlam in a white robe with a pointy white hat.

That Harlam can sure be a nasty place.
posted by flatlander at 9:58 AM on June 1, 2003


Well, the Park certainly didn't gain that reputation casually. It intensified during the 1970s era of neglect, of course, but Central Park was considered a haven for pickpockets and muggings even in the 19th century. By the late 80s when I lived in NYC the Conservancy had made great strides and though there remained areas of decay, especially in the north end of the park, it was widely considered by New Yorkers to have turned the corner. The irony of the timing of the Central Park jogger case was that people in the city thought it was many times safer in 1989 than it had been ten years earlier: it truly seemed an anomaly.

But the daily population of the park is enormous and it's foolish to expect a completely crime-free environment anywhere, especially someplace with so many hides and getaway trails. The truth is that I've even gone to Central Park at night: there was a very cool atmosphere of people scattered around the Sheep Meadow and I accepted a smoke from someone after a short conversation. It didn't freak me out nearly as much as getting lost somewhere between the East Village and Alphabet City (I did make my way safely back to civilization, thanks to the compass beacon of the WTC), or my 11am foray into Morningside Park behind the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where I found an emaciated couple sitting on a park bench caringly shooting each other up. Today, with even Central Park North the locus of redevelopment, I imagine those areas are much less dicey.

There's a good Central Park and urban parks today article in the CSM. Two terrific outgrowths of the placing of the park under the management of a conservancy, aside from its budgeting from endowment rather than variable and competitive taxpayer dollars, are the redevelopment of the Central Park Zoo from a tired, dated caged-display animal museum to a vibrant wildlife conservation center, and the new recognition of Central Park as an urban environment of biodiversity worthy of study and classification.
posted by dhartung at 12:27 PM on June 1, 2003


NO it's not nice! Yes, it's HORRIBLE!!! HORRIBLE I tell you! You will be attacked just for entertainment purposes, if the stench of rotting garbage everywhere doesn't chase you away!

Stay the HELL out!!! OOOOUUUTT!!!
posted by reality at 8:06 PM on June 1, 2003


Personally I'd rather live in a town small enough that having a big park in the middle isn't something that looks completely out of place with the rest of the city.

So it's a nice park. It's still in the middle of a city I'd die before I'd live in.
posted by piper28 at 9:25 PM on June 1, 2003


It's still in the middle of a city I'd die before I'd live in.

Our city also has a museum with the first piano. The best baseball team in the world, and the most beloved underdog team in baseball, too. The best pizza. The best cheesecake. Uncountable peerless bastions of culture. The lowest crime rate of any large city. More interchange between people of great economic disparity than any other city in the world. The birthplace of hip hop. Gateway to the U.S. for most people of European descent in this country. Van Gogh's Starry Night. And countless beautiful parks, Central Park among them.

So, yeah, you're welcome to stay the fuck out. We're doing okay without the haters.
posted by anildash at 11:55 PM on June 1, 2003


The best pizza.

Hey, I really really like NYC too. But the above is incorrect.
posted by Vidiot at 7:10 AM on June 2, 2003


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