Amid masses of concrete, steel, taxis, and buses, urban landscapes can be generally devoid of green space. Many cities have managed to create small parks that serve to give residents a place to escape the trappings of city life. Considered unique in the world, Central Park in New York City is an oasis smack dab in the middle of the largest city in America. While Central Park is not the world’s largest urban park, it stands as an historic icon in a truly great city.
Though other urban parks are much larger, Central Park enjoys a worldwide reputation. For example, Griffith Park in Los Angeles is four times the size of Central Park and is home to such notable attractions as the Griffith Park Observatory, the Griffith Park Zoo, and the renowned Greek Theater. European cities such as London also boast public parks much larger than Central Park.
With over 25 million visitors, Central Park is home to picnic grounds, statuary, sports fields, and entertainment venues. In addition to the parks natural beauty, several attractions are central the parks success. One of the most popular attractions in the park is the world famous Central Park Zoo. The Great Lawn has been the scene of public large public concerts and public appearances by world celebrities. The Great Lawn also plays host to free performances by the world famous Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
The idea for a grand public park was first conceived during the 1800s at a time when most of New York’s population was concentrated in Lower Manhattan. Much of the over 800 acres that the park now occupies was populated by immigrants and freed slaves. Some felt that too little regard was paid to the plight of the areas impoverished residents. Under the guise of eminent domain, areas like Seneca Village and the Piggery District were cleared, with little to no compensation paid to the residents. Even the convent that housed the Sisters of Charity fell victim to the push for the park.
It was said that the original designers wanted the park space to be a place where residents of wealth could see and be seen. Until Central Park was completed, many of the city’s parks were private with access granted only to residents of adjoining neighborhoods.
According to the parks official website, the period of the 1960s and 1970s saw the park fell into a state of disrepair. It would take well over a decade of work to bring the park back to its former glory. Designations of areas such as Strawberry Fields, a memorial to slain Beatle John Lennon would renew the commitment to maintain the park as a tourist attraction and place for average New Yorkers to enjoy and treasure.