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Thread: Central Park turns 150

  1. #46


    Nice photos. I searched for those using the forum search but couldn't find that thread

  2. #47


    October 31, 2004

    Taking the Drive Out of Central Park


    Almost four decades ago, city leaders forced the drivers who use the looping Central Park roadway to start sharing it with joggers and cyclists, first on weekends and later during the week as well. Now the joggers and cyclists are getting closer to having the road all to themselves.

    Two recent traffic studies show that the number of cars that use the six-mile roadway has been diminishing - by at least 25 percent since 1991 - as the city has blocked entrances to the road and reduced the hours that taxis and cars can use it. One study by the Regional Plan Association has indicated that shutting down the roadway would not significantly increase traffic on major avenues outside the park, as some have ominously predicted.

    Discussions are under way among New York City park and transportation officials about a trial starting as early as this spring in which three more vehicular entrances to the park would be blocked off and cars barred entirely between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., except for the four transverses that cross the park. That would give trees a 12-hour break from fumes and add some car-free running time for late-night and early-rising joggers. The plan still requires the approval of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

    Nevertheless, the discussions suggest how far the pendulum, nudged by environmental and recreational pressures, has swung in two generations. The roadway that once helped speed taxis bearing East Siders and West Siders to and from their jobs, shops or the theaters in Midtown is increasingly yielding to joggers and bicyclists.

    Any further closings are sure to anger the city's taxi industry, whose drivers rely on the loop as a shortcut around avenues like Fifth Avenue and Central Park West that are jammed during the rush. A majority of the cars that use the park road are taxis.

    "In New York, time is money," said Mahmood Ahmed, a Pakistani immigrant who has been driving a cab for 15 years. "You waste time, you make less money. Everybody likes to fly."

    But joggers, many of them training for the New York City Marathon a week from today, were delighted at the news. Andrea Achelis, who works for a jewelry designer, was running last Thursday in a sweatsuit near the southern end of the park shortly after the park roadway was closed at 10 a.m. The late October sunlight was slanting through the park's yellow and russet foliage.

    "I try to wait until late so I don't have to jog with all the fumes," she said. "It's nice now. There are no fumes, it's quiet, and you can connect with nature. You can really enjoy the park."

    Warner Johnston, a spokesman for the parks department, and Tom Cocola, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, issued a statement Friday saying only that "several options to improve vehicular conditions in the park have been considered and continue to be considered."

    Douglas Blonsky, president of the Central Park Conservancy, the private organization that manages the park under a city contract, said, "If a study supports that we can have some reduction of vehicular traffic in the park, I think that's terrific."

    The talks among city officials do not touch upon the transverses that cross the park at 65th, 79th, 86th and 97th Streets, which carry significant volumes of cross-town traffic. Rather, they focus on the six-mile serpentine roadway built 150 years ago for carriages and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux as a way of bringing the gentry in touch with the masses.

    By the mid-1960's, pressure from environmentalists and groups representing runners and cyclists closed the park to cars on weekends; in following years, the drive was also closed to cars at certain weekday times. Currently, the park is closed to cars all weekend and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays. A weekday exception is made for the branch of roadway that connects the entrance at Sixth Avenue and Central Park South to the one at East 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue; it remains open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

    City officials have resisted shutting the park completely to cars, fearing that congestion on nearby avenues could create more pollution than a car ban would prevent. But in the past two decades, the Department of Parks and Recreation has closed off entrances to the roadway at West 110th Street, West 106th Street and Columbus Circle. Among the gateways now under consideration for closings are those at East 102nd Street, East 90th Street (except for exiting cars), and an exit ramp that runs from West 74th Street to West 72nd Street.

    In recent years, joggers and cyclists have each had half a lane to the left of the two traffic lanes, though they have often complained that the strip is too narrow, causing them to bump into one another or stray perilously into the car lanes.

    Transportation advocacy groups like the Regional Plan Association and Transportation Alternatives, as well as cycling and jogging clubs, have been pushing for a car-free park. Last Tuesday night more than 700 people packed the Unitarian Universalist Church on Central Park West to rally for that goal.

    "We have lots of support from runners who want to use the park during the early-morning hours and health advocates for the children who can use the park after school and have nowhere else to go," said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.

    A study for that organization and the Regional Plan Association by Jeffrey M. Zupan, a senior fellow of the association, tried to refute claims by opponents that closing the park loop permanently would clog adjacent avenues.

    Mr. Zupan argued that as drivers and even taxi passengers become discouraged by the inability to use the loop, many might switch to mass transit. But even if there was no "disappearance," Mr. Zupan said, closing the most-used exit - the one that allows 1,457 southbound cars, or 24 per minute, to spill onto Seventh Avenue and into Midtown during a peak morning hour - would add at most only 4 more vehicles per minute to Fifth Avenue, which now has 33 cars per minute, and fewer to other southbound avenues. Traffic might also be eased by the absence of cars making turns into or out of the park, he said.

    Another study of the Central Park roadway several months ago whose contents were made known to The New York Times found that simply closing more entrances would reduce traffic. The study counted the cars entering the park at eight gateways between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and found that at some, the volume was more than 50 percent lower than it was during a comparable study done for the city's Transportation Department in 1991. On average, the combined decline at all eight gateways was 26.2 percent.

    Michael Woloz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Taxi Board of Trade, which represents fleet owners, said his members and drivers would be upset by further closings.

    "They have a shortcut mentality,'' he said, "and if you take away a shortcut, you're going to get resistance and complaints from the driver community."

    Even some joggers are not unalloyed supporters of a car-free park. Richard Edwards, a 48-year-old art dealer who was running Thursday with his wire fox terriers, Max and Emma, said that as a jogger he would appreciate less access for cars. But as a traveling businessman who likes to return quickly to his home on Central Park South, "it's much easier going through the park when you're coming from La Guardia Airport."

    "So I see the benefits of both," he said.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

    A few years ago in an article about efforts to close the park to traffic, it was mentioned that the Central Park Conservancy was curiously neutral on this issue.

    The banning of traffic would not eliminate the roadway, which would still be open for maintenance and emergency vehicles, but the roadway could be re-lined to separate cyclists and pedestrians.

    It's obvious to anyone who has used the park regularly for more than a decade that traffic has been reduced considerably.

    It's hard to visualize now, but there was once an entrance road at Columbus Circle.

    Traffic in the park disrupts the experience, and I think those two fellas would be perplexed if they were here to see it.

  3. #48


    Bethesda Terrace - 31 October 2004.

  4. #49


    DOT and Parks to Increase Car Free Hours in Central Park; and Introduce New Hov 2+ Plan as Part of Holiday Traffic Plan

    Sunday, November 21, 2004
    Release #04-138

    The New York City Departments of Transportation and Parks & Recreation announced today a series of steps the City will take to increase recreational use of Central Park. These steps include reducing the speed limit on Park drives, permanently closing a number of entrances and exits and reducing the number of hours the Park is open to vehicles. The changes will be phased in during the next few weeks, with full implementation expected by Monday, January 3, 2005, once the City's holiday traffic plan is no longer in effect. Also as part of the holiday plan, for the first time, a High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) restriction will be in effect during the morning rush hour on the Park's West Drive.

    Vehicles will now only be allowed on the Park's East and West drives between the hours of 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. As part of this initiative, Central Park will be closed to motor vehicles during the overnight hours from 7pm to 7am and will remain closed between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. As a result, early morning recreational users will have the exclusive use of the drives to themselves. The overnight closures will begin on Monday, January 3, 2005. Also, the speed limit on the Park drives has now been lowered to 25 mph from 30 mph.

    In addition DOT and Parks & Recreation will be closing a number of exits and entrances to vehicular traffic, including:

    -West 90th Street entrance and exit;
    -West 77th Street entrance;
    -East 102nd Street entrance and exit;
    -East 90th Street entrance; and
    -West 72nd Street slip-off ramp at Strawberry Fields.

    These closures will improve overall traffic flow within the Park, minimize potential pedestrian/vehicle conflicts, and make available additional space for non-vehicular uses. All closures are expected to be in place by Monday, November 29, 2004.

    In addition on November 29, DOT will implement an HOV 2+ Program along the West Drive (between the Lenox Avenue entrance and the Seventh Avenue exit) during the morning (7am to 10am) peak period. By requiring motorists to have at least one other passenger, the HOV 2+ program will encourage car-pooling and reduce congestion and vehicle volumes. During the restricted hours, only vehicles with two or more occupants will be permitted to enter the Park's West Drive.

    On November 29, as in previous years, the Central Park holiday traffic plan will be in effect. Weekday road closures, from 10am to 3pm and 7pm to 10pm will be suspended until the New Year.

    "The new Park Drive hours, coupled with the reduced number of entries into and exits from the park, will make Central Park even more of a haven from the bustle of urban life," said Commissioner Benepe. "We are pleased to be working with the Department of Transportation and Central Park Conservancy to build upon our past successes in enhancing the recreational use of the park."

    "We believe these changes will help create a better balance between recreational and motorized uses of Central Park," said DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall. "Our new HOV initiative will encourage car-pooling and reduce congestion, and we are pleased to include it in our holiday traffic plan."

    "Any opportunity to implement an initiative that makes the Park safer for the public and increases recreational use benefits Central Park and all of its users," said Doug Blonsky, President of the Central Park Conservancy and Central Park Administrator.

  5. #50


    The East side of the park has a different feel than the West side to me. They are both representative of the neighborhoods.

  6. #51


    March 6, 2005


    Park Predecessors


    Q. When I was visiting "The Gates," I got to wondering: Are there any structures in Central Park older than the park itself?

    A. There are two. One is the Arsenal Building, at 64th Street and Fifth Avenue, which is now the headquarters of the city's Parks and Recreation Department. It was built between 1847 and 1851 by the state as a repository for munitions. In 1857, shortly before work on Central Park began, the city bought the Arsenal and removed all arms. It later served as a police station, a natural history museum and a menagerie, among other functions.

    The other building is the Blockhouse, near the park's northern end. It was built hurriedly in 1814 after the British stormed Stonington, Conn., in the War of 1812, and New Yorkers suddenly realized that an attack could come from the east or north. The British never attacked. In peacetime the Blockhouse was used to store ammunition. By the time this area of the park was designed, it was treated as a picturesque ruin.


    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  7. #52


    The National Geographic's February issue(I believe)has an interesting article about Frederick Law Olmstead and the numerous parks he designed.
    While his masterpiece is Central Park(or,as some could argue quite effectively,Brooklyn's Prospect Park),he also created a number of equally stunning parks in other cities,notably the Rochester Parks system,Buffalo's grand parks and parkways,Boston's outstanding green spaces,and urban parks in cities far from the Eastern Seaboard,like Milwaukee and Louisville.
    I grew up in Rochester,and came to realize at a very young age how special the parks in that city were.Olmstead-and sometimes collaberator Calvert Vaux-worked the same type of magic on Durand-Eastman's expanse as they did in New York,creating a lakeside park that becomes heavily sculpted,rocky and wooded as you move away from the shore,and with Cobb's Hill Park,site of Rochester's old municipal reservoir and one of the highest points within city limits.
    He laid out Highland Park,with it's crystal Arboretum,as a formal garden open to the masses,and today it is home to the spectacular Lilac Festival,a stunningly beautiful celebration of Springtime.
    The City's marvelous Seneca Park,located in and along 3-4 miles of a deep gorge carved by the Genesee River north of Downtown,contains Rochester's zoo and miles of steep,wooded trails.
    Olmstead's landscapes may all be marvelous fakes,mimicing the natural environs they replaced,but each one I've visited is a jewel,a real urban asset.
    Lucky is the city that is fortunate enough to host his work.

  8. #53
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    Oct 2002
    Manhattan - South Village


    Keeping Great Crowds Off Central Park's Great Lawn

    Francesca Keeler, 5, seemed to have Central Park's Great Lawn to herself Tuesday.


    April 27, 2005

    he city's Parks Department wants to limit gatherings on the Great Lawn in Central Park to 50,000 people, a move that would end an era in which hundreds of thousands of people turned to the park as a place to protest, or to see the pope, Pavarotti and Simon and Garfunkel, officials said yesterday.

    The proposal, which has not been widely disseminated and requires no other approval but the department's, would also cap the number of events on the Great Lawn to six each year, with four of those reserved for the annual performances of the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. Parks officials say those musical programs draw "passive" audiences who go easy on the lawn's Kentucky bluegrass.

    The other two events would have to be held during a four-week period in August and September.

    The Parks Department said the rules would simply formalize what has been its informal policy since 1997, when the city spent $18.2 million to restore the 13-acre Great Lawn, which for years had been more dust bowl than lawn.

    But Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner, acknowledged that he was led to formalize the rules by the city's court battle last summer with an antiwar group that sought to use the lawn for a rally that was expected to draw as many as 250,000 people.

    "You have two choices," Mr. Benepe said. "You can have unlimited, large-scale events, or you can have nice grass, but you can't have both.

    "It was unlimited use that destroyed the park in the old days, so if you want the city's backyard to be in good shape, you have got to put limitations on its use," the commissioner said.

    Opponents of the policy, however, say something is lost if Luciano Pavarotti cannot sing before a half-million people in the park as he did in 1993, or the pope can no longer celebrate Mass for 125,000, as John Paul II did in 1995.

    "We've got to make sure, that No. 1, the limits are for the greater good and not meant to deter certain groups," said Councilwoman Helen Foster, chairwoman of the City Council's Parks and Recreation Committee. "We've got to make sure that we are not limiting what we expose New York City residents to."

    The Parks Department published its proposed new rules on April 18 in The City Record, a daily publication in which city agencies announce public hearings. The policy change would not require the approval of the Council, although the department has scheduled a public hearing on the issue for May 20 at the Chelsea Recreation Center.

    Currently, the Parks Department does not expressly limit the number of people allowed on the Great Lawn for gatherings, and there are no limits on the number of events held there. Permission to assemble is granted case by case when groups apply for permits. Any group with more than 20 people requires a permit.

    The Great Lawn is the only spot in the park where gatherings of more than 50,000 people have been permitted in recent years. A concert by the Philharmonic or an opera performance draws a maximum of about 50,000, representatives from the organizations said; the last big event on the lawn, a 2003 concert by the Dave Matthews Band, drew 80,000.

    The new policy would limit events on the lawn to a four-week period from the third week of August through the second week of September, with the exception of the opera and Philharmonic performances, which are held annually in June and July. Mr. Benepe said the monthlong window for new events was intended to give the grass a chance to recover between big gatherings.

    A spokesman for United for Peace and Justice, which lost its fight with the city last August to hold a huge antiwar rally on the Great Lawn during the Republican National Convention, said the proposed rules were aimed squarely at preventing groups like his from holding large political demonstrations in the park.

    "This would set in stone their institutional attitude about protests," said the spokesman, Bill Dobbs. "In Manhattan, nearly every square foot is covered with buildings, so the park is the town common, where people have assembled for generations. Now the Bloomberg administration is seeking to maintain it as a lawn museum."

    The group has received a permit for a May 1 rally at the Heckscher Ballfields in the park to support global nuclear disarmament and end the war in Iraq. Mr. Dobbs said that as many as 50,000 people were expected to attend the protest. The fields are scheduled to be restored this fall, and after that large gatherings there would be prohibited, parks officials said.

    Mr. Dobbs said it was particularly unfair that so many of the large-scale events on the Great Lawn would be opera and Philharmonic performances. "To give the symphony and opera four of the six - the bulk of them - shows the class of people whose interests are being protected," he said.

    But the city makes distinctions between what it calls passive users (those who sit, drink wine and listen) and active users (those who dance, march or simply stand on the park's delicate grass).

    Mr. Benepe said that while classical-music lovers have caused almost no harm to the Great Lawn over the years, the Dave Matthews concert caused $120,000 worth of damage to the grass.

    "The day of the mega-event is over in Central Park," said Mr. Benepe, who added that the Matthews concert had taught him a lesson.

    In the park yesterday, the proposed changes received a mixed reaction.

    Morgan Storms, 26, a fifth grade teacher, said the rules did not make much sense.

    "It seems awfully silly to base a law like that on grass that will grow back," said Ms. Storms. "It's like cutting your hair. It grows back, right?"

    But Gavin Keeler, 42, a legal assistant playing soccer with his two young daughters, remembered the bad old days, when a walk across the Great Lawn sometimes meant a face full of dust.

    "If it's a question between six events a year that are not going to harm it, and a couple of free-for-alls that are going to harm it, I'll take the limits," he said.

    Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass for 125,000 people on the Great Lawn in 1995. Events of that size would no longer be allowed under new rules.

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  9. #54
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    New York City


    They've got to be kidding. First the Republican Convention, now this.

  10. #55
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    Sep 2004


    Seems like the national mall in washington survives alright. The city definitely needs a large-scale public space.

  11. #56
    The Dude Abides
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    NYC - Financial District


    I've actually been to the National Mall in Washington recently and I can tell you that there is hardly any grass there, especially following a big event. Mostly dirt and random patches of bad grass. Definitely not something I'd like see happen to the Great Lawn. Then again, I still think the occasional big event won't damage it that much.

  12. #57


    "It seems awfully silly to base a law like that on grass that will grow back," said Ms. Storms. "It's like cutting your hair. It grows back, right?"
    May 2, 2005


    Saying No to 250,000 on the Lawn


    WO years ago in late September, the Dave Matthews Band held a successful concert on Central Park's Great Lawn that drew more than 80,000 fans.

    But park records show that the Great Lawn was damaged by those fans, who stood on their feet, danced in place and surged forward, compacting the grass. Six of the lawn's softball fields needed repair, at a cost of $130,000.

    The money was no problem, since the concert's organizers had posted a bond. But while two of the damaged fields reopened to limited use in three weeks, the four others were closed for the rest of the season and through the winter. Doug Blonsky, president of the Central Park Conservancy, said on Friday that if the concert had taken place earlier in the year, "six of the lawn's eight softball fields would have been closed for the season."

    And so - the newly proposed policy of the Department of Parks and Recreation: Only six large events will be allowed each season on the Great Lawn, including two free concerts each by the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic, and a maximum of 50,000 people at any of those. That means that the Simon and Garfunkel concerts, papal masses and political protests that drew as many as a half-million people to the park are history.

    This plan has not gone down well, especially since the Department of Parks and Recreation whispered its proposal by publishing it in The City Record, a dry daily for municipal legal-type notices. That put the department and its commissioner, Adrian Benepe, on the defensive when the news got out. Public relations 101, anyone?

    But the proposal, which has drawn objections from some elected officials and protest organizers, would not have won universal acceptance no matter how it was announced.

    This is New York. A choice between a green lawn or mass popular entertainment? Between softball or the exercise of free speech?

    New Yorkers want it all. But as in other realms, maybe they cannot have it all, at least not in the same location.

    Last summer, a protest against the Republican National Convention became a march in city streets rather than a rally on the Great Lawn because - to much criticism, some in this space - the Bloomberg administration would not let the protesters onto the lawn.

    This summer, Billy Graham wanted to hold his three-day New York crusade on the Great Lawn. The Parks Department offered Flushing Meadows Park instead, and that's where it will be next month - in Queens.

    Central Park is the city's backyard, but, as in other matters (think stadium) one does have to wonder why everything has to be in Manhattan.

    THE city started to get fussy about the Great Lawn after its $18.2 million restoration in 1997. The lawn - a defunct section of the park reservoir - was landfill before that, claylike dirt from excavation for the Empire State Building and other projects. It was a dust bowl on some days, basins of puddles on others.

    It wasn't maintained well - maybe it couldn't be - and protests, concerts and "happenings" were commonplace. Then came the restoration, with its drainage and irrigation system and carpet of Kentucky bluegrass.

    Isn't grass just grass, and doesn't grass always grow back?

    Not necessarily, said A. Martin Petrovic, professor of turfgrass science at Cornell University's Horticulture Department.

    Dr. Petrovic, a consultant on the lawn's restoration, explained that when blades of grass are destroyed, they will generally come back, but more severe damage can kill the plant's roots.

    "It's the degree of damage," Dr. Petrovic said in an interview. "I've been in demonstrations and to rock concerts - people's feet are moving around; they can't stand still." The restored lawn, he continued, cannot tolerate the sustained weight of 250,000 people.

    If the grass's roots go, the area needs resodding, and it can take two months for the sod's roots to knit into the soil below.

    There are options. Lawns like those on professional baseball fields recover from damage quickly, but require intensive, and costly, maintenance. And platforming - installing temporary plastic grates over the lawn to disperse the weight -could work, Dr. Petrovic suggested. But it, too, is very expensive.

    Those or other alternatives will inevitably be raised at a public hearing on the proposal later this month. Or maybe New Yorkers will have to accept that they truly cannot always have it all.

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  13. #58


    New Yorkers sunbathing in Sheep Meadow. 4 July 2005.

  14. #59
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown

    Default Heckscher Playground

    Looking for photos, drawings, etc. of the on-going Heckscher Playground renovation.

    Here's info from Landmark's Prevervation Commission website, regarding the proposal that was the basis for the current renovation:

    Decision - Advisory Report for Central Park, Manhattan Docket 03-6167


    TEL: 212 669-7700
    FAX: 212 669-7780

    ISSUE DATE:06/03/2003
    DOCKET #:03-6167
    CRA #:CRA 03-7411

    This report is issued pursuant to Sections 3020 and 854 (h) of the New York City Charter and Section 25-318 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York, which require a report from the Landmarks Preservation Commission for certain plans for the construction, reconstruction, alteration, or demolition of any improvement or proposed improvement which is owned by the City or is to be constructed upon property owned by the City and is or is to be located on a landmark site or in a historic district or which contains an interior landmark.

    The Landmarks Preservation Commission, at the Public Meeting of June 3, 2003, following the Public Hearing of the same date, voted to issue a favorable report with certain reservations for a preliminary design for the alteration of the landscape surrounding the Historic Playground, at the southwest corner of Central Park, as put forward in your application completed on May 1, 2003.

    The proposal, as approved, consists of the reconfiguration and realignment of existing paths, the reconstruction of drainage systems, the installation of plantings, the restoration of the Heckscher Building as the primary entrance to the playground, the installation of fencing, the installation of a soft surface play area in the center of the playground, the restoration of the ball fields, the installation of a wooden pergola with seating wall, the installation of new benches, the creation of a picnic area, the restoration of the Adventure style Playgrounds, and the replacement of some playground equipment; as described in the Project Advisory dated March 2003, photographs, and drawings labeled The Historic Playground Landscape, The Historic Playground Landscape Existing Conditions, The Historic Playground Landscape Landscape Analysis, all prepared by the Central Park Conservancy, submitted as components of the application, and presented at the Public Hearing and the Public Meeting.

    In reviewing this proposal, the Commission noted that the designation report for the Central Park Scenic Landmark describes Central Park as an English Romantic style public park designed in 1856 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. The Commission also noted that the area known as the Historic Playground is approximately 30 acres; that it was originally designed in 1858 as recreation grounds for a variety of field games for children; that it was modified as the Hechsher Playground in 1926 to become the first permanent play space in Central Park designed exclusively for children, including a wading pool, state of the art play equipment, and a recreation building. In 1936, the Playground was overhauled, the wading pool redone, hard asphalt was introduced, the pavilion building was doubled in size, and the open meadow was converted to formal ball fields. Also in the ‘30s, the Spur Rock Arch in the southern end of the site was demolished and a portion of the bridle path was removed. The Playground was again modified with the introduction of a toddler Adventure style playground in 1969, and in 1972, the wading pool was converted to an Adventure water playground.

    With regard to this proposal, the Commission found that the realignment of paths and the elimination of desire lines will create a logical circulation system, will renovate the drainage system, will create fresh areas of greenery, and will be consistent with the general design conception of the park; that the reconstruction of paths and landscapes will utilize standard park materials and site features; that the work will bring the northern portion of the site closer to its original design; that the termination of the bridle path south of Pinebank Arch will not damage or alter any historic path; that the introduction of a picnic area with wood chip ground cover, split rail fence and wooden picnic benches will harmonize with the landscape; that the the proposed modifications to the pavilion building will bring it closer to its orignal appearance; that relocating the main entrance to the playground through the altered pavilion will return this feature to its original purpose; that the introduction of a pergola with seating wall overlooking a soft surface play area in the center of the Playground will eliminate a large swath of barren concrete and will return the Playground to a condition more in keeping with its original intent; that the restoration and modification of the existing playgrounds within the historic Playground landscape will return these amenities to first class working order; that the restoration of the Adventure water play area will reestablish a feature which existed as a water play area since the 1920s; and the cumulative effect of this proposal will enhance the special character of the Central Park Scenic Landmark. Based on these findings, the Commission determined the proposed work to be appropriate and voted to issue a positive report, with certain qualifications.

    However, in voting to approve this work, the Commission required that the Central Park Conservancy reconsider the use of artificial turf at the center of the playground, and if possible, substitute a natural soft surface material. The Commission also required that the details for the termination of the bridle path, the removal of certain desire lines, and the design of the fencing return to the Commission for review upon further design development.

    This permit is issued on the basis of the building and site conditions described in the application and disclosed during the review process. By accepting this permit, the applicant agrees to notify the Commission if the actual building or site conditions vary or if original or historic building fabric is discovered. The Commission reserves the right to amend or revoke this permit, upon written notice to the applicant, in the event that the actual building or site conditions are materially different from those described in the application or disclosed during the review process.

    All approved drawings are marked approved by the Commission with a perforated seal indicating the date of approval. The work is limited to what is contained in the perforated documents. Other work or amendments to this filing must be reviewed and approved separately. The applicant is hereby put on notice that performing or maintaining any work not explicitly authorized by this permit may make the applicant liable for criminal and/or civil penalties, including imprisonment and fines. This report constitutes the permit; a copy must be prominently displayed at the site while work is in progress. Please direct inquiries to Providencia Velazquez.

    Robert B. Tierney

    cc: Douglas Blonsky, Central Park; Ed Benson, Central Park Conservancy; Caroline Kane Levy, Deputy Director, LPC; Deborah Bershad, Art Commission

    Issued: 6/3/03
    DOCKET: 03-6167

  15. #60


    New York Sun
    February 23, 2006

    Central Park's Constant Gardener

    Lunch at the Four Seasons

    By PRANAY GUPTE - Special to the Sun

    Douglas Blonsky is Central Park's constant gardener.

    "That's some job," the New Jersey-born administrator of the 147-year-old park said yesterday. "All day, every day."

    It means working with 250 full-time staffers and 3,000 volunteers. It means raising much of the park's annual $25 million budget. It means nurturing a vast cohort of donors - not only the big-money kind, some of whose families have been involved with the park for several generations, but also 20,000 New Yorkers who pay between $35 and $1,000 a year for the privilege of being formal supporters of Central Park.

    It means dealing with 25 million visitors annually who use Central Park's 50 entrances to stroll, jog, romance, and gambol in an area that is 2 1/2 miles long and half a mile wide. It means supervising more than 1,000 public events, ranging from performances of the Metropolitan Opera to the New York City Marathon.

    "It means being the human face of the park," Mr. Blonsky said, with a smile that suggested advanced enthusiasm.

    Mr. Blonsky's job actually consists of two assignments: In addition to being administrator, he is president of the not-for-profit organization that manages Central Park under a contract with the city, the Central Park Conservancy.

    The words "job" and "assignments," however, don't quite capture what it is Mr. Blonsky does.

    Consider this: He is the supernumerary of an 843-acre park with 26,000 trees of 165 different species, including 4,262 Black Cherry, all self-seeded, none planted; 1,834 American Elms, one of the finest collections in America; 1,318 London Planes; 1,724 Pin Oaks; 1,632 Black Locust; 1,310 Norway Maple; 953 Sycamore Maple; 757 Red Oak; 549 Ginkgo, and 407 Turkey Oak.

    When one counts Central Park's 4 million shrubs, lawns, and hedges, that's another 1,500 species of flora under Mr. Blonsky's care as Central Park's constant gardener. And there are 275 species of migratory birds that inhabit the park, which is on the Atlantic Flyway.

    "Constant gardener" may not even capture the essence of his contribution to the park since he joined the conservancy 21 years ago. Although he blanches at the seemingly hyperbolic characterization, a more appropriate term would be "savior."

    When Mr. Blonsky came to New York, armed with a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture from Rutgers University and another bachelor's degree in horticulture from the University of Delaware, Central Park was a mess. Virtually all of its structures, including Belvedere Castle, had been defaced by graffiti. Its 9,000 benches - which, if placed end to end, would run seven miles - were dilapidated. Its 36 bridges and arches were falling apart. Its seven ornamental fountains and 120 drinking basins were crumbling. Muggings were commonplace, even in daylight. The 6-foot-deep lake at 72nd Street was filled with detritus. The blue grass had withered, and the lawns were parched.

    "I was amazed that the park was in such poor condition," Mr. Blonsky said.

    His distress was heightened by the fact that Central Park had its own folklore and its own special place in the life of New York City.

    Growing up in Morristown, N.J., as the son of a MetLife employee, George Blonsky, and his wife, Kathryn, a Spanish-language teacher, Mr. Blonsky had always been encouraged to be outdoors. Douglas, the youngest of four children, helped out in his parents' garden, where roses and rhododendrons were in abundance. Central Park was a metaphor for an advanced urban civilization and a great city's lungs.

    By the time Mr. Blonsky came to New York, he was familiar with the park's history. The city had commissioned the designer and writer Frederick Law Olmsted and the English architect Calvert Vaux to create Central Park out of a vast area of scrubland, swamps, boulders, and some farmland. Some $5 million had been allocated for the project, which involved bringing in 10 million cartloads of soil and seedlings. By 1873, Central Park was completed.

    By 1980, however, it had deteriorated to the point where nothing short of a master plan was needed to rehabilitate it.

    "All that history, all that wonderful greenery - Central Park had been taken for granted," Mr. Blonsky said. "Our master plan was more than a rescue operation. It was total rehabilitation."

    Over the next 25 years, some $320 million was raised for the project from the private sector. One of Mr. Blonsky's acclaimed innovations was to create 49 "zones" for the park. Each zone would have a multidisciplinary team attached to it, and the team would be responsible for its upkeep.

    Spurred by the conservancy's 52-member board, Mr. Blonsky and his associates introduced what were then considered technological novelties such as walkie-talkies. Vehicles were bought that could easily access all parts of the uneven terrain. Mr. Blonsky's wife, Mai Allen, a landscape architect and former Parks employee - whom he met in Central Park - was often a source of design ideas.

    With the assistance of allies such as Betsy Barlow Rogers, Ira Millstein, Norma Dana, and Richard Gilder, among others, the conservancy's endowment rose to more than $100 million.

    New York being New York, of course, a public-service enterprise rarely can escape politics, especially a highly visible, iconic presence such as Central Park. So how was Mr. Blonsky to effect his innovations without suffering political interference?

    "Well, it helped that I was an outsider to the city," he said. "Some of our donors and board members handled the political part."A former Parks commissioner, Henry Stern, "a political animal if ever there was one, was a wonderful ally," he said.

    "I also received great cooperation from various mayors, especially Mayor Bloomberg, and his Parks commissioner - and my good friend - Adrian Benepe. My message always was, 'It's everybody's park.' It's hard for people to be partisan over Central Park - passionate, yes, but partisan? No."

    In the spirit of such nonpartisanship, Mr. Blonsky hopes to be able to create a special high school that will inculcate in students a love for the landscape.

    "Central Park's presence in New York's life is forever assured," Mr. Blonsky said. "But wouldn't it be nice if we trained young people to look after the city's great asset?"

    © 2006 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC.

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