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Thinking About Central Park

19 writers on the magic of Central Park.

A view of New York's Central Park from a giant-helium filled balloon as it hovers to celebrate the park's 150th anniversary, Friday July 25, 2008. The purpose of the rides is to mark the 150th anniversary of Central Park, the U.S.'s first major urban park, created by architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux and opened to the public in 1858. (AP)

A view of New York’s Central Park from a giant-helium filled balloon as it hovers to celebrate the park’s 150th anniversary, Friday July 25, 2008. The purpose of the rides is to mark the 150th anniversary of Central Park, the U.S.’s first major urban park, created by architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux and opened to the public in 1858. (AP)

 

New York City’s Central Park is a place and a state of mind.  The oasis in the midst of frenetic life.  The dream of ordered nature – just a little wild – within reach of urban life.  From the sky, it’s that striking, great green rectangle laid out in the heart of an island metropolis.

On the ground, it’s 843 acres of memories and legend and lore.  Favorite haunt of movie makers.  Summer concerts.  Strolling lovers.  Stolen moments.  A new anthology captures nineteen writers on the mystique of Central Park.

This hour, On Point:  it’s summertime, and we’re going to the park.

-Tom Ashbrook

 

Guests

Andrew Blauner, literary agent and founder of the Blauner Books Literary Agency. He is the editor of “Central Park: an Anthology.”

Susan Cheever, contributed the essay “My Little Bit of Country” to the “Central Park: an Anthology.”

Tom Beller, contributed the essay “Negative Space” to the “Central Park: an Anthology.”

Adam Gopnik, contributed the essay “Through the Children’s Gate”  to the “Central Park: an Anthology.”

 

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “It’s where Harry and Sally went for a walk under the autumn leaves. Where Alvy Singer romanced Annie Hall. Where Kermit and Miss Piggy took a ride in a horse-drawn carriage. Where George and Gwen in “The Out-of-Towners” spent a terrible night sleeping under a tree. Where Oliver went to mourn the death of his beloved Jenny in “Love Story.” And the place the animals in “Madagascar” once called home.”

Excerpt: Central Park: an Anthology

ADRIAN BENEPE
Introduction

I recently had the opportunity to record an oral history of New York City’s parks for a high-tech start- up. The software wizards there created a Web-based map of the world and asked people near and far comedians, bartenders, professors, city servants— to talk about their pieces of the world. Mine involves approximately five thousand pieces of property under the jurisdiction of the NYC Department of
Parks & Recreation, our parks, playgrounds, beaches, recreation facilities, meadows, and woodlands covering more than twenty- nine thousand acres, about 14 percent of the city. Yet I found myself telling not one, not two, but three tales of Central Park. The first described a few of the park’s quirky characters, the second discussed the amazing temporary art installation known as The Gates, and the third covered the great statues and monuments featured along Literary Walk and throughout the park’s great expanse.

* * *

When I was in college, I had a summer job, perhaps my most interesting summer job, as a pushcart vendor in Central Park. It was an enormous pushcart that belonged to the Front Porch restaurant on the West Side of Manhattan. This was in the summer of 1976, the summer of the Bicentennial celebration, the tall ships, and fireworks, when disco was ascendant and A Chorus Line opened on Broadway. It was a summer when NYC was mostly grimy and decrepit, with stifling subway cars covered in graffiti, but there were signs that all was not lost. It was also a summer when a girl I had just met at Middlebury College came to visit from her home in California, and Charlotte Glasser fell in love with New York, and would later marry me in Central Park.

Every day, I would get my cart and fill it up with tureens of cold soup and interesting fruit breads and push it— all six hundred pounds of it— from West Eighty- second Street to Fifty- ninth Street. I sold food at lunchtime at the south end of the park, and then, after lunch, I pushed the cart to the Delacorte Theater, outside of which I sold food at dinnertime. Though the cart lacked a Parks permit and the restaurant did not inform me that I needed one, no one enforced the rules at the time. There was a passel of other vendors selling creative food, and a few classic hot dog/pretzel guys who likely had real permits. Every once in a while a police officer would show up and shoo us away, but we would come back and sell our soup, falafel, or tacos. (The charismatic guy who sold falafel would shout out to prospective customers, “Falafel— Will Not Make You Feel . . . Awful!”) We banded together and enjoyed friendly competition, except for the two hot dog guys, who once had a fight that ended with one stabbing the other in his arm with a large hot dog fork. During this time, I came to know a lot of the people who seem slightly unreal to me now.

When we refer to the “bad old days” of Central Park, we are usually talking about the days of rampant crime, graffiti, abandoned buildings, bare lawns, and dead trees. And yet I miss some aspects of those old days. In particular, Central Park was home to a lot of “characters” who added to the atmosphere, but who, for the most part, are not there anymore.

One of the characters I met, the Poet O, trundled around Central Park with a shopping cart. He had a bushy white beard and he would ring a handbell. If you gave him money, he thanked you by reciting a poem that he composed on the spot, a sort of blank verse. He made promises to cure paying listeners of sexual diseases by ringing his bell. I talked with him often, and once he realized that I didn’t have the means to pay him for his wisdom, he dispensed it for free. Among other things, he explained to me the value of Central Park as a large, outdoor sanitorium. He said he was mentally ill, and the park enabled him to get out of his single room in a West Side hotel and be out in nature— not elbow to elbow with people— where he could experience what he called “the natural medication of nature.” The park, he explained, was saving the government huge amounts of money by allowing mentally ill people to “self- medicate” through the intoxicants of the romantic landscape and avoid expensive mental hospitals and drugs.

Another character, a flamboyant man with a pompadour, toured the park on an elaborate bicycle, pulling a tricycle with a red wagon behind it. A series of enormous tropical birds, cockatoos and parrots, rode on the tricycle and wagon behind him as he circled the park, allowing people to admire his birds.
Perhaps the best known was Adam Purple, with his long flowing white beard and purple, tie- dyed clothes, who traveled the park on his purple bicycle picking up horse manure to compost in his garden on the Lower East Side. For a while, a woman in purple, whom he called Eve, accompanied him.

A hippie named “Mountain,” who had long, dirty- blond hair, played Frisbee every day by the Naumburg Bandshell. The Bandshell was where the other hippie kids hung out. Mountain, not one of the rich kids from Central Park West or Fifth Avenue, was lean and muscular and had the air of a Westie from Hell’s Kitchen. He knew how to throw a Frisbee better than anyone else and served as a kind of Peter Pan leader of the Lost Boys (and girls) of that generation. But Frisbee wasn’t his only talent. Mountain could commune with anyone, and he had to, because the area was habituated not only by middle- and upper- class teenagers, but also by a group of drug dealers who counted on the kids as customers. Soon enough, a new group would overtake the area— roller disco skaters in colorful outfits dancing to Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby,” and then, in another summer, Chic singing “Le Freak” as dozens of skaters and hundreds of onlookers of all races and nationalities and sexual persuasions grooved and mingled and proved why New York City was the capital of where people just got along.

These were some of the Central Park characters. Today, they are not nearly as numerous. The Central Park Conservancy and New York City have invested six hundred million dollars in private and public funds to restore the glory of the nineteenth- century landscape in a way that suits twenty- first- century users. Ladies in hoop skirts and gentlemen in linen suits strolling along the paths have given way to both genders running and cycling in Lycra tops and bottoms that their predecessors would have seen as underwear. Or perhaps you simply cannot see the characters now that almost forty million visitors enter the park each year. I suppose it is better that the park is busier than ever rather than abandoned, which it essentially was back in the seventies. Maybe now you just have to look a little closer to find the characters.

For sixteen days in February 2005, Central Park was transformed by the now- famous art installation known as The Gates. Centuries of great sculptors are featured along Literary Walk and throughout the park’s broad expanse, and The Gates, like a powerful orange highlighter, drew the attention of millions of New Yorkers for a blissful and brief rapprochement with the unexpected and the great.
The NYC park system has a very large temporary art program. The Parks Department works with groups like the Public Art Fund and Creative Time and also with independent artists to temporarily install contemporary works in parks across the city, notably on Park Avenue and at Grand Army Plaza and in City Hall Park, among many other places. I became deeply involved in perhaps the greatest and briefest exhibit, The Gates, by Christo and Jeanne- Claude, in the early 2000s. Mayor Michael Bloomberg thought the project would have merit both as a work of art and as a tourist draw, so he and Deputy Mayor Patti Harris instructed me to ensure the park’s safety first, but ultimately to try make the idea a reality.

Over the previous twenty- five years, we had repeatedly informed Christo and Jeanne- Claude why we could not allow them to do the project. In its initial version, the plan called for fifteen thousand gates, with footings deep in the lawns, rocks, and woodlands of the park, and an autumn installation date. With so much potential damage to the park at stake, and scheduled as it originally was at a time of high visitation (and bird migration), as well as staunch opposition from preservationists and community residents, their project seemed undoable. In fact, Park Commissioners Gordon Davis and Henry Stern both formally turned it down, in Davis’s case with an elaborately argued booklet of more than hundred pages.
Now it was my job to try to find a way to make it work, and Central Park Administrator Doug Blonsky and I, along with a very diplomatic assistant parks commissioner named Jack Linn, had the task of figuring out how to work with the artists so they could realize their extremely personal vision while doing no damage to the park’s landscape nor unduly disturbing the resident wildlife and park visitors. The artists had to figure out a way— and they did very cleverly with their engineer, Vince Davenport— to construct The Gates without digging holes in the park. Among the many ingenious aspects of their design was the use of hollow, extruded vinyl tubing to be used for the gates themselves, an idea based on similar technology used for fencing horse paddocks. The design used heavy weights to which lightweight gates were bolted to the asphalt paths. Christo and Jeanne- Claude also reduced the number of gates by half and installed the exhibit in February, during the park’s icy season, when visitation is normally extremely low and no bird migration takes place. The artists, along with Vince and his wife, Jonita, organized an army of paid technicians and volunteers to install the gates, and the entire process, including countless technical meetings, public review presentations, press conferences, and walks through the park, were part of the work of art. By the project’s conclusion, the park remained completely unharmed.

On February 12, 2005, Mayor Bloomberg and the artists unfurled one of the saffron- colored curtains overhead, the crowds streamed through, and like a very long line of dominoes, the other gates were unfurled by volunteers. The Gates went up for sixteen extraordinary days during which time something like two million people visited Central Park in the year’s coldest month. It was a transformative experience for me. I had gone from being the guy who had to deliver the bad news as to why the show could not go on in the nineties, to being the one who helped make it happen. The Gates made me, and millions of visitors, look anew at Central Park, because the rows of orange gates formed lines across the landscape, undulating with the terrain, sweeping up and down hills, and swooping along lake edges and roadways, as if a giant hand had traced the contours of the park with an orange highlighter. For the first and perhaps only time, the complexity of this work of art, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the 1850s, was dissected and revealed in a way it had never been before, brilliant but evanescent. People thronged into the park and packed nearby hotels, shops, and restaurants; it was even rumored that the Starbucks near Columbus Circle ran out of cups. Tourism hit record numbers, and the city saw a positive economic impact estimated at almost $250 million. Like the three days of peace and love at Woodstock in 1969, the two weeks of unbridled joy in New York City in 2005 touched even the most cynical of the city’s residents. Perhaps most important, New Yorkers felt a very tangible sense that they could recover from the terrible devastation of the World Trade Center attacks. The Gates was not just the single greatest art installation the city has ever enjoyed; it was a reaffirmation of the enduring vitality of New York City and cities in general.

In the seventies, Central Park was a municipal embarrassment and a symbol of a city going down the tubes in a hurry. Graffiti obscured everything in sight, including the abandoned, once- historic buildings, festooned with extraordinary ornamentation, designed by eminent architects of the previous century. Vandals broke off pieces of stone carvings on the Bethesda Terrace. The fountains were empty and full of scrawl. The rowboats were covered with graffiti. There was no grass on the lawns, and the park lacked horticulture. The poorest of people made overnight homes in the burned- out buildings. Crime soared, from rampant drug dealing to hundreds of muggings and even murders. That was Central Park, the city’s premier park; one can imagine what the rest of the park system looked like.
These were the parks I knew as a teenager, in the summer of 1973 when I first worked for the Parks Department on the Lower East Side, cleaning toilets and locker rooms at the Dry Dock Pool on East Tenth Street and then picking up garbage and sweeping up huge piles of beer cans in the East River Park. I learned firsthand that a combination of reduced funding, low morale, and poor work attitudes can drive even a once proud park system to its lowest level. It was also the Central Park I first encountered when I graduated from Middlebury College and came back to New York City in the early spring of 1979.

Through a series of happy accidents, I made my way to the Parks Department, meeting Betsy Barlow, the newly appointed Central Park administrator, while working as an unpaid intern at a community newspaper. I learned about Commissioner Gordon Davis’s wonderful idea to start a program called the “Urban Park Rangers.” The Rangers would bring a corps of fresh- faced, mostly young and idealistic parks “ambassadors” to the public and show in a tangible way that the park system was undergoing a rebirth under Mayor Ed Koch. From May 1979 to September 1980 I served as an Urban Park Ranger. On one of my first patrols, walking through the Ramble, I stopped to talk to a middle- aged man, who said, “You know, I’ve lived in New York all my life, and the city really got lost when we abandoned the parks to the vandals and the hooligans.” He told me, “When we gave away the parks to the bad guys, that was the end of the city.” And I think he said, or he may simply have implied that “we will take back the city, and the city will become livable again, when the parks feel safe and decent again.”

It was very hard to feel hopeful about the future at that time. I would look at tinted postcards and black- and- white photos of old Central Park with perfect green lawns and flowers and fences and intact buildings and monuments and no graffiti and say, “Look at the terrible things that have happened. Can it ever be nice again?”

Soon, the city, and its parks, did indeed begin to become “nice again.” The Central Park Conservancy was formed under the leadership of Betsy Barlow, who was named park administrator by Mayor Koch and Commissioner Davis. The city restored the Sheep Meadow, and the Dairy was reopened as a visitor center. Then came the magnificent restorations of the Belvedere Castle in Central Park and the Boat house in Prospect Park. Each time a restoration occurred, the city sent a message. It was like winning a war against decrepitude and vandalism and all the bad things that had happened. With some minor bumps along the way, the work started by Davis and Koch and continued under Mayors David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani and their respective parks commissioners, Betsy Gotbaum and Henry Stern, paved the way for Mayor Bloomberg to lead the largest expansion and improvement of the park system since the halcyon days of the WPA and Robert Moses.

The NYC Parks Department, among many other things, oversees most of the city’s collection of statues and monuments; certainly everything that is in a park. Statues and monuments in a city are traditions that go back to the ancient days of Egypt, Rome, and Greece. The primary purpose of civic sculptures and monuments in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was to honor heroes or ideals. Parks have memorials to all of the wars; to generals, soldiers, presidents, and other leaders. There are bronze statues and generals on horse back (unfortunately, all men). More recent additions to New York City parks include statues of Eleanor Roosevelt, Gertrude Stein, and Harriet Tubman, as well as those representing a diversity of backgrounds—Mahatma Gandhi and Duke Ellington and Frederick Douglass, among others.

Some of the very best sculptors lived and practiced here in New York City. Augustus Saint- Gaudens, a man many consider the best sculptor of the nineteenth century, and certainly the best American sculptor ever and a true genius, was born and raised on East Twenty- second Street. Before becoming a successful sculptor, he served as a cameo cutter and then an apprentice.

He eventually relocated to Cornish, New Hampshire, and founded the Cornish Colony, where all the artists and writers and sculptors and painters— including John Singer Sargent— went and lived. He created some of the great sculptures of American history, including the one of Admiral David Farragut that stands in Madison Square Park, the seated figure of Peter Cooper that sits in a small triangle behind the Cooper Union, and perhaps most famously, the gilded statue of General William Tecumseh Sherman being led by the allegorical figure of Victory, which stands at Grand Army Plaza at Fifty- ninth Street and Fifth Avenue.

Today, Central Park is home to many statues and monuments, but very few have been added since the mid- twentieth century, when a trio of South American heroes went up along Central Park South. People now have come to understand that Central Park itself is, as the Central Park Conservancy historian and photographer Sara Cedar Miller stated, “the most important work of American art of the nineteenth century.” Even more remarkably, it is a work of art that has managed to survive and evolve, look better than ever, and serve more visitors than ever, over 150 years after it was conceived and created. And it was considered perfect then.

Reading this volume is a little like a walk in the park with some truly excellent companions. It is a long distance, in a Proustian way, from the characters of Central Park I met then. But it underscores the fact that Central Park is not simply a geographic destination, nor just the essential masterpiece of landscape architecture and great creative accomplishment of the nineteenth century. Once you add people and time, it becomes an ever- evolving work of art and performance art. It is central to our thinking, our style, and our magnificence.

Playlist

“Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin

“A Heart in New York” by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel

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  • Roy Mac

    hmm.  Remind me.  I would be interested in central park because…oh, that’s right–it’s in New York!  Where Wall Street is!  Where all those a**holes work!  Silly me–I’d almost forgotten how IMPORTANT New York and ANYTHING in New York is.  Spare us.  If I feel the need to hear any more about New York, I’ll dial 411.

    • Chilled

      You might want to get your blood pressure checked. Or better, find your nearest park, sit, have some coffee, relax.

      • Drew (GA)

        Must have been pretty rough, I missed it. It’s rare for a comment to get removed from the board so quickly.

    • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

      I’m with Chilled, calm down dude.

      Central Park has an incredible history and if you’ve ever been there, you know its an exceptional park, partly because it’s right in the middle of Manhattan, surrounded by bustling city.

  • Doug Giebel

    In 1989, I still had my apartment in Manhattan, but I was working in Montana doing public affairs for the Montana Statehood Centennial. I proposed and held a Montana Picnic in Central Park, behind the Metropolitan Museum. Over 400 former Montanans attended, and as part of the event the Dillon (Montana) Junior Fiddlers comprised of children of all ages, played for the attendees, then spent a couple of days sightseeing in the city. The driver of a NYC bus taking them downtown to the Empire State Building gave them a very friendly ride, the kids charmed even jaded subway riders, and for those adults who love both Montana and Central Park, the picnic was a memorable afternoon. It’s not too late to repeat: Thank You, New York City Parks Department for your kindness.
    Doug Giebel
    Big Sandy, Montana

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    A shot looking north up the west side of the park from a high rise apartment south of the park:

  • Vasco DeGrabya

    Could you imagine trying to create Central Park today?  Lobbyists for developers, environmental gaurdians, etc…

    Gotta appreciate it because it could probably not be duplicated.

  • J__o__h__n
  • http://profiles.google.com/phyllis.craine Phyllis Craine

    Central Park and Boston’s Emerald Necklace park system both share that they were designed by Frederick Law Omsted. 

  • J__o__h__n

    Mayor Bloomberg banned smoking in parks.  It would be great if Boston followed. 

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       Is anything still permitted in either city?

      • J__o__h__n

        I don’t think anyone really misses their freedom to eat trans fats.

  • Drew (GA)

    Thanks for the beautiful audio with birdsong at the beginning of the show and the soothing discussion that has followed. I needed that after hour 1.

  • Mbrown

    I was in the park at an evening concert in the 1970s when the entire city blacked out.  The only lights that were working were the spot lights on the building being used to make the first Super Man movie.  The trains are electric so we couldn’t get home and spent the night on the floor of the Waldof hotel lobby.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    New Yorkers need to get out into nature more often.  On second thought, perhaps it’s best that they stay in the city.

  • Dan

    On an unusually warm day in January this year my girlfriend and I came into Manhattan for dinner and a show at the Village Vanguard. I was carrying around an engagement for days waiting for an opportune moment. We took a sunset stroll through the park and ended up at Belvedere Castle. It was then that the full moon rose, illuminating the park with hues I had never seen before. With no one around us and the atmosphere perfect, I spontaneously got on one knee and proposed. The rest, as they say, is history. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    1982? Anti-nuclear rally, must have walked about 50 blocks before finally arriving at Central Park and the concert there. So memorable – and so different than the police state that is currently NYC.

  • sweetsister

    7 years ago my son and daughter in law were married there, on a little patio overlooking a fountain surrounded by a massive gathering of green. The rehearsal the evening before was, quite simply, a monsoon. Fingers crossed. The next morning, the sun shone and the air was breathtakingly crystal clear. This very happy couple still live on 81st street and run in the Park. 

  • Nancy

    I grew up in NYC until I was 9 in 1977 and we moved to Connecticut. I have lived in Boston now for 19 years and have a deep love of the park. It is a touchstone for me whenever I go to the city. I played there as a child, sunbathed in Sheep’s Meadow in the early 90s when I lived in NYC after college, saw Paul Simon’s concert there with749,000 other people, used it as a thoroughfare to and from work and now bring my children there to skate in the winter or run in the summer during our visits. My father almost flipped a rowboat with all of us in it when I was a child. I love the fact that I always find a little gem there. The best has been watching the old, Italian men playing bocce on the western edge. And now, it serves as an inspiration for me to get back to the city and have an apartment with the Park filling my views!

  • Marlina

    In my 20′s I use to live at Central Park South (58th & 6th) It was literally my back yard…I felt blessed and very fortunate to be there… I would walk a block and be in my oasis… it took me away without being away….
    My “second family” were the rollerskaters/bladers off of sheep’s meadow..where we would rollerdance all day on Saturday’s and Sunday’s  – there is no place like it anywhere in the world….

  • John

    I grew up in Brooklyn and attended public high school in the late 70′s. My favorite central park memory is the Grace Slick and Jefferson Starship concert (free) on the big lawn. Not quite meditative – but memorable none the less. I think most of the seats in New York’s high schools were empty that day.

    John
    Craftsbury, Vermont

  • Margaret Femia

    When you read the history of Central Park you learn that it’s early draw was the clean water in the fountains that flowed via aquaducts from upstate NY. Clean water was very a very precious commodity in the city. Also, the winding paths within the park were designed that way so the upper class people would not have to see the lower class people as they strolled through the park. As ex-NYers, our visit is never complete without a walk through the park. We recommend an excellent book of history of Central Park by Sara Miller.

  • Annie B

    No nature red in tooth and claw? Has your guest ever seen one of the resident redtail hawks chowing down on a pigeon or two? My intro to Central Park. My intro to CP was meeting up with a buinch of birders watching Pale Male.

  • T Thurtell

    I was visiting NYC for the first time, an awe-struck young woman from Iowa.  The spontaneous dancing to boom boxes, drum choruses, beautiful trees, the carousel.  Then I stumbled upon the beautiful memorial to John Lennon, which was still being decorated with flowers, many years after his death.  It brought tears to my eyes.  A magical place.

  • David

    As romantic as the park may be, why has no one mentioned the abject homelessness on display? I’m from Boston, and while I proposed to my wife in the Common, I also know that it was the site of lynchings. If we consider human experience in the park, we must confront both the horrors as well as the pleasures.

  • Frank

    While living a block from Central Park (East 94th. St.) in 1970s, I stopped by the Zoo in the park to photograph the gorillas one morning. Several people standing in front of the cage watched as a female gorilla urinated to form a yellow puddle in front of her. Once finished, she stepped back, put her nose to the puddle and then scooped up her urine in her hands and threw it in the faces of the folks watching her just a couple of feet away. They all jumped back, looked at each other while shaking off the yellow liquid from their faces and clothes, began to laugh and then turned angry and quickly walked away muttering obscenities. 
    It happened so quickly – I was not able to get a picture, but the image of those folks getting sprayed by a gorilla’s very yellow urine will remain with me forever.

  • ToyYoda

    Every moment in Central Park is a memorable moment.  What I love about Central Park is having the open space to be contemplative and lost in a natural setting, then catching yourself thinking, “Wait.  I’m in one of the densest urban settings in the world.  These open skies, the wide open fields, and shadowy tunnels of green trees, this shouldn’t be here… what a pleasant, wonderful, and beautiful surprise.”

  • Webb Nichols

    The incredible event occurred when the planners defined the boundaries of central park when there was literally no surrounding development. Yet by purpose or accident, the scale of the park now matches the scale of the city as they interact, resonate and play off each other making beautiful music most of the time.

  • rememberer

    As a child, the clock outside the zoo where the animals ring the bell on the hour;  then as a teen, music and anti-war demonstrations; and as a young and older adult, Shakespeare in the Park, formally at the Delacorte, informally by groups like Extant Arts.  Long may it be a place for growing up, aging and learning and living.

  • Rflddumughn

    If you come to London for the Olympics you are spoilt for choice.
    Hyde Park, Regents Park , St Jame’s Park, Greenwich Park. So plenty of opportunity to chill out. I am not trying to make point only that grren places are essential for civilised living

  • Ellen

    I lived in NYC in the mid 70′s and in 1979 I played on an advertising agency softball team. We played in Central Park and our outfield was shared by some hot-tempered soccer players who would occasionally come barreling through our game after their ball. We were scared to object because once we were threatened with a knife. Still, it was a magical experience.

  • Jonesbrady

    Hi, Tom – Someone needs to  ask Susan Cheever to get off her high horse. So glad she likes Central Park. I do, too. I also like the wild woods behind my backyard and the tire swing hanging from a tree that my kids played on – not in NYC. And later, their swing set which was NOT mail order. Hope someone will read this comment. 

  • Hihoau

    Tom – very unfortunate you’re guests failed to mention Seneca Village – esp. in light of Mr. Gopnik’s insistence that the park is some sort of homage to democratic ideals. Here is the Wikipedia entry for those interested in the history of the park:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seneca_Village

  • 2Gary2

    who cares about a park in new york??we are in a drought in WI.  Talk about a topic with limited appeal.  Boring!

  • Terry

    Almost always enjoy On Point. Would have enjoyed the Central Park hour if not for Ms. Cheever’s arrogant attitude. 

  • Charles

    I’ve been involved in bicycle racing in the park for many years. I live downtown. Ms. Cheever should not discount living away from the park, making it a destination, making it special.
    As far as racing, it is a wonderful resource. A great training loop. 6 miles of rolling hills, areas to do hill repeats and get your heart rate peaked.
    Its a wonderful place, but it isno less loved by people below 59th St, than those above.

  • Ed

    My favorite moment in Central Point: College in 1973. I was walking through the park and came up on a few people around a card table. “What’s going on,” I asked. “It’s the finish of the New York City Marathon,” they replied. “Huh,” I said, and passed on.

  • Charles

    Dont be self absorbed. There are plenty of news stories focused on the other areas of the US. We in NYC are very aware of what goes on in the US.

  • Cnjuco

    I was born and raised in Peoria illinois – - the heartland – -in a big house surrounded by lawns and trees and other big houses. And all of the houses had elaborate playsets – - yet in all the years I grew up there I rarely if ever saw children playing in these yards or on these playsets and I had little if any appreciation for nature.  It wasn’t until I moved to Manhattan 20 years ago and began running and walking and bringining  my children to play in Central Park that I developed an appreciation for the glory of nature. The rustic beauty of the Ramble made me want to visit the Andirondacks and I have many times since I first discovered it. It was in the playgrounds of Central Park where I made new friends – - people that have remained a key part of my life ever since. It is the great equalizer and I can’t imagine living life in New York or anywhere for that matter without it

  • Ed

    Even Olmstead said that Central Park was “practicee” for Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. So let’s not get carried away.

    • Charles

      He may have practiced on CP, and although Prospect Park is beautiful, it’s not nearly as encompassing and is kept as beautiful as that beautiful jewel in manhattan

      • Ed

        Right, because it’s not being paid for by Upper East Side hedge fund managers.

        • Ed

          And heirs to John Cheever’s fortune.

          • Charles

            Meow

          • Ed

            Woof.

          • tsb

            “John Cheever’s fortune.” He left one–in his books. But if you think he left one in cash you know nothing about publishing and even less about Cheever.

  • Ed

    Brilliant. One guy, Gopnik, loves the city nice and safe for tourists, the other, Cheever, terrified of “real nature.” Guess that’s Central Park.

  • Dawn

    I love New York City and all its parks! I have to say that since I have learned about the cruelty inherent to the horse carriage  industry,  I dont enjoy going to parks that have horse drawn carriages. To be out on a beautiful hot summer day and see the horses suffering so – even dropping dead from exhaustion or being hit by cars is not my idea of enjoyment. I think parks should be for people and wildlife but not at the expense of horses….

  • ToyYoda

    One of the coolest things that I did when I lived in NYC was to make a project out of visiting every park in NYC and at each, consume a few pages of a book I was reading at the time and do something I can only do at that park or in its adjacent neighborhood. I also had to walk from the last park I visited to the next. It’s a really unique way to experience NYC and you get to walk through almost all of Manhattan’s neighborhoods. If you plan on doing this, search for New York Times article hidden/secret parks of Manhattan.

  • Dolly Sullivan

    My feeble attempt at thrill seeking in Central Park – I was in NYC on business at a posh party in Central Park.  Having watched too many movies, I decided that it would tempt danger and walk through Central Park back to my hotel (which bordered the park).  I turned my diamond rings around and played like I was a seasoned spy – thinking I would spot a mugger before he or she came up on me ………. and was totally humbled when a jogger ran by me before I even saw him coming….  Needless to say, I arrived safe and sound …. and I absolutely love visiting NYC!

  • Elise

    I tried to call in during the show but couldn’t get connected!  My husband and I met in Central Park on a Sunday in November, 1983…I was reading a manuscript for work and he was biking through the park and we both sat at opposite ends of a bench near the Sheep Meadow…a homeless man walked by a trash can, reached in, and pulled out a perfectly wrapped Subway-type sandwich and walked away eating it.  We both watched and then looked at each other and I said, “Did you see that?”  We began talking, went out to dinner that evening, and have been married for almost 28 years.  So, amazing things do happen!

  • Slipstream

    I think it is a little over-rated – crowded, too much automobile traffic, with dangerous little-visited sections – but every city should have one.  I can remember a good number of magical moments I have experienced there.  And where else can you find a Belvedere Castle, a Bethesda Fountain, the Sheeps Meadow, and Shakespeare in the Park?

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Apr 18, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a nationally televised question-and-answer session in Moscow on Thursday, April 17, 2014. President Vladimir Putin has urged an end to the blockade of Moldova’s separatist province of Trans-Dniester. Trans-Dniester, located in eastern part of Moldova on border with Ukraine, has run its own affairs without international recognition since a 1992 war. Russian troops are stationed there.  (AP)

Deadly clashes in Eastern Ukraine. A white supremacist rocks Kansas City. The Marathon bombing anniversary. And Bloomberg on guns. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Apr 18, 2014
This undated photo provided by NASA on April 2, 2014 shows Saturn's moon Enceladus. The "tiger stripes" are long fractures from which water vapor jets are emitted. Scientists have uncovered a vast ocean beneath the icy surface of the moon, they announced Thursday, April 3, 2014. Italian and American researchers made the discovery using Cassini, a NASA-European spacecraft still exploring Saturn and its rings 17 years after its launch from Cape Canaveral. (AP)

Oceans in Space. The new discovery on a moon of Saturn, and the possibility of life there.

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Apr 18, 2014
This undated photo provided by NASA on April 2, 2014 shows Saturn's moon Enceladus. The "tiger stripes" are long fractures from which water vapor jets are emitted. Scientists have uncovered a vast ocean beneath the icy surface of the moon, they announced Thursday, April 3, 2014. Italian and American researchers made the discovery using Cassini, a NASA-European spacecraft still exploring Saturn and its rings 17 years after its launch from Cape Canaveral. (AP)

Oceans in Space. The new discovery on a moon of Saturn, and the possibility of life there.

 
Apr 18, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a nationally televised question-and-answer session in Moscow on Thursday, April 17, 2014. President Vladimir Putin has urged an end to the blockade of Moldova’s separatist province of Trans-Dniester. Trans-Dniester, located in eastern part of Moldova on border with Ukraine, has run its own affairs without international recognition since a 1992 war. Russian troops are stationed there.  (AP)

Deadly clashes in Eastern Ukraine. A white supremacist rocks Kansas City. The Marathon bombing anniversary. And Bloomberg on guns. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

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