I just want to go through Central Park and watch folks passing by. Spend the whole day watching people. I miss that. — Barack Obama
Because I am not President of the U.S., and because a good friend who lives outside New York City in suburban Connecticut invited us down for a long weekend, I was able to spend most of last Saturday in Central Park, gazing in admiration at springtime in a city park and watching the people who had come to do the same thing on one of the first warm days after a long winter.
While the High Line, in lower Manhattan, with its 300+ species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees, is a modern marvel of reclamation (and a wonderful place to stroll any day), Central Park was conceived of, designed, and created around the time of the American Civil War, on 750 uptown acres — later expanded to 843 acres, now more centrally located as the city moved north — where the “irregular terrain of swamps and bluffs, punctuated by rocky outcroppings, made the land between Fifth and Eighth avenues and 59th and 106th streets undesirable for private development.” Central Park languished for some years in the 1900s, until the 1980s when the Central Park Conservancy took over management of the Park.
A 24-hour study done in Central Park in the summer of 2008 by scientists and volunteers found 836 species in the Park, including 393 plant species, 102 invertebrate species, 78 moths, 10 kinds of spiders, 9 dragonflies, 7 species of mammals, and 46 bird species; the low number of birds was put down to the time of year: there are actually 270 species of birds in The Ramble section alone. It’s an ecosystem, or rather a network of natural communities, in the center of the one of most populated cities in the world. (More about biodiversity in the Park.)
It was just glorious to feel sunny 75F temps, to see cherries, dogwoods, magnolias, redbuds, tulips in bloom, and to be alive in the midst of the activity and languidness, the main current of commonplace, habit, regularity (dog walking!) lifted and redirected by the inbreathing of wonder that animated the Park.
“The more successfully a city mingles everyday diversity of uses and users in its everyday streets, the more successfully, casually (and economically) its people thereby enliven and support well-located parks that can thus give back grace and delight to their neighborhoods instead of vacuity. ” ― Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities
I may be a lifelong ‘downtowner,’ but Central Park really is the most amazing and the most beautiful part of New York City. — Moby
And the most unusual and surrealistic place in New York City is Central Park. — Christo
“I get out of the taxi and it’s probably the only city which in reality looks better than on the postcards, New York.” ― Milos Forman