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by Rosario Concha
Santiago, Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile
November 21, 2011
From journal Trip to New York City
by wanderer 2005
January 28, 2005
by Jose Kevo
December 9, 2001
In the northern end off the 2/3-train 110th St. stop is Lasker Memorial rink which is least expensive, less crowded. It's also home of Harlem's youth hockey leagues.
* Both rinks have snack bar facilities. Admission and skate rental are seperate with fees annually creeping upward.
SWIMMING - The only public swimming pool is also at Lasker Memorial in the north. Admission is free; there's a mixed and interesting crowd. Swimming in natural bodies of water is prohibited.
VOLLEYBALL - Located on "Dead End Alley" between Sheep Meadow and The Mall, there's two asphalt and one sand court. Pick-up games are easy to get into. (Brazilians rule these courts!)
SNOW/WINTER - After a good coating of snow, Cross Country Skiers take to the Park everywhere. Sledding is also widely popular with the best/steepest hill on the north of The Ramble.
ROCK CLIMBING - Natural rocky terrain makes this a great activity, but those serious about their skills head for the northern sections scaling cliffs/rocks along the loop and also walls of the War of 1812 blockade. A good indicator of what/where are the white chalk hand prints!
FISHING - The Harlem Meer-Lake on the northern end issues free fishing poles/lines/hooks with doughball bait for those who don't have their own. It's great for kids; they can actually catch abundant smaller fish, too.
LAWN BOWLING - Definitely only for spectators, this long-standing league of lawn bowlers can be found on the greens north of Sheep Meadow just off the loop.
TENNIS - A large complex of newly refurbished courts are in the South Meadow just NW of the reservoir.
TEAM SPORTS - Softball/Baseball is by far the largest organized sport within the Park on clusters of fields in the southern Hecksher Ballfields, Great Lawn, and North Meadow which has larger diamonds and hosts local Hispanic adult/youth league competition.
Soccer is mostly found on/around East Meadow with the Central American population; pick-up games available.
Basketball courts are on the NW corner of the Great Lawn and at the North Meadow security center.
From journal CENTRAL PARK - An Oasis that's not a Mirage
JOGGING - The NY Roadrunners Club have an information kiosk at the 5th Ave./89th St. entrance which is also a good place for locating the mile-half+ "natural" course circling the reservoir which is rather well lit, basically safe, and heavily used at all "decent" hours. Die-hards use the asphalt thoroughfare which loops around the Park and, by detected use, would appear safer for late-night runners. This circular route is closed to traffic except a.m./p.m. weekday rush hours. Jogging/biking lanes are marked, often crowded.
Those in town the first weekend of November, the finish line for NYC's Marathon is across from Tavern on the Green.
ROLLERBLADING/SKATING - This popular mode of transportation/recreation is purposefully, leisurely everywhere. Competitive/skilled in-line skating takes place on the loop near Tavern on the Green.
Weekend Street Skates along Dead End Alley have long been a popular attraction. Chances are you'll see the crowds and hear music long before you realize what's going on as people of all ages, races, social statuses "get busy" to the thumpin' beat displaying skills that can keep you watching for hours.
The second most popular area is the nearby courtyard at Naumberg Bandshell. There's no music, but performances just as impressive including those "grinding" on benches or taking Bethesda Terrace stairs backwards.
BICYCLING/RENTALS - Bicycling is popular around the loop and for those lesser inclined, riding basically anywhere you'd like. Standard bicycles can be rented in the parking lot in front of Loeb Boathouse. If you've access to mountain/all-terrain bikes, challenges await in The Ramble and northern areas.
*Joggers/skaters/bikers MUST SHARE THE ROAD! Countless accidents occur daily from those not paying attention. You also run potentially greater risk of inflicted injury from the person you cluelessly hit than the accident itself...or at least a good tongue lashing!
BOATING - As seen in many movies, you too can seasonally rent a rowboat behind Loeb Boathouse to skim across the pond for hefty rate and limited time. The Boathouse restaurant also offers seasonal gondola rides complete with Venetian oarsmen and song.
Remote controlled boating takes place at Water Conservatory downhill from the 5th Ave./72nd St. entrance.
HORSEBACK RIDING - Bridle pathes are obviously scatterd about the western, central and northern parts. Where you get the horse, I've no clue!
December 8, 2001
One of my favorites comes at dusk around the Harlem Meer...though any body of water will do. The sky's sunset pallet provides an excellent background for all the buildings which tower over the trees lining the Park walls. As if this site isn't inspiring enough, you'll get a double dose with reflections on the water...sometimes shimmering from a fallen leaf or passing mallard. There's nothing better for clearing your mind as your day "reflects" are soothed from the beautiful reflections.
The numbers of people out and about in southern sections of the Park up to 72nd St. might have you wondering if these people ever go home whether a large group of rowdy revelers on the plaza or a lone skater with walkman in hand practicing their moves under a street lamp. This is the most developed area and closest to midtown which brings safety in numbers from/for both locals AND tourists alike.
If you're curious yet still somewhat skiddish, I highly recommend taking a horse-drawn carriage ride which departs from the 59th St./6th Ave. entrance to at least sense the magical feeling of escaping to this haven while the "now lit-up" buildings are looming all around...ready to engulf you the second you step outside the boundaries. If on foot, you definitely won't/shouldn't miss a walk-through of the year-round highly lighted and decorated courtyard of Tavern on the Green, or a stroll down The Mall/Promenade - especially in the fall when leaves are still randomly trickling down from gentle breezes. Most areas are very well lit though there's plenty of darkness should you choose to stop and steal a kiss or moment together.
Romance is certainly in the air...and a lot of other related mischief and then some even aside from the safety issues. Exposure of the "exposed" is inevitable after dark and comes with the territories...kind of like the air that's just there. I've stumbled across "beyond bizarre" especially when combing areas looking for my Youth Center kids gone AWOL. Without specific cause, avoid most areas north of 72nd St. unless you're running short of drugs or peep show tokens.
"Headline Crimes" are not exclusive to nightly hours though a 1:00 a.m. park closing curfew is enforced best can be. Working with the local precinct on youth-related issues has given me an inside track to info and experiences with the Park; especially in the springtime when large packs of uptown kids invade the Park at night on mostly stolen bicycles reeking havoc and high speeds on the roads clocked at 40+ mph.
In 1982, there were 147 different kinds of trees (not counting saplings) accounting for 24,595 trees within the Park. Pay close enough attention - you'll come across some of the obscure indentifying markers giving brief descriptions on what kinds they are.
"Tree Poaching is a legitimate concern for Park officials as it's believed an average of 20 large trees a year are quickly, quietly chopped down, cut up and sold for firewood. If you want the real "bark" on trees, speak with park employee Bob Redman...a once illusive teenager who was tracked by park employees during an 8-year period for illusively constructing/living in 13 different treehouses in the densest northern sections. Once caught, living in a 5-room split level model, his love/knowledge for trees landed him on the payroll.
As for fauna, 238 species of birds have been found in Central Park including the Snowy Owl and Bald Eagle. The Park is a bird watcher's paradise and the most popular sightings take place in The Ramble; a highly controversial area often pitting city officials against bird watchers from efforts to rid/clean up the area's "other" attractions by culling out the vegetative thickness which attracts birds but also conceals susupect activity. Let's just say you'll likely see more than birds through your binoculars!
To no suprise, pidgeons and brown norway rats top their respective categories followed closely by a thriving mallard and squirrel population. A pair of swans have nested on the Boat Pond for years; their "ugly duckling" young transforming into regal beauties before moving on.
If you're in the Park at dusk or beyond, don't be surprised to see VERY LARGE raccoons brazenly roaming around foraging for food. Perhaps you remember recent headlines about the roving coyote found within the woods. This perceived savage beast - likely dumped-off house pet was definitely out of it's element just as you might end up feeling on the Park's "perceived" survival of the fittest food/prey chain; something daily played out around the waters where pidgeons, seagulls, ducks, geese and song birds compete and outwit each other for bread crumbs "illegally" fed by park goers. Signs say, "Don't Feed The Wildlife", but...
In 1890, 80 starlings were imported from Europe and released in Central Park spawning the country's obnoxious population we've today. The English Sparrow also originated in the U.S. from here.
Entering the 20th century, two giant Sequoia trees were still thriving near Cherry Hill.
Free guided nature tours can be arranged at The Dairy in the south or Dana Discovery Center in the north.
December 7, 2001
Rocky terrain remaining within the Park is what was scattered around most of the island purchased in 1626 from Wappinger Algonquins for the equivalent of $24. "Manhattan" is derived from their original Native American name "Manah-atin" meaning Island of Hills in reference to the rocks our skyscrapers are embedded on.
24 Sparrow Cops were hired in 1858 to police the Park and made 228 arrest for violations of driving carriages too fast, walking on the grass, picking flowers, public displays of affection, other minimal charges.
The general public was outraged that $63,000 was spent on the angel which caps the Bethesda Terrace Fountain - the first ever publicly commissioned and displayed work by a woman, Emma Stebbins, in NYC.
Early recreation within the Park was restricted and deemed only acceptable for children; adults expected to display modest, genteel behavior. Lawn tennis was the first organized sport allowed in 1884 by permit only. A ban on baseball within the Park was lifted in the 1920's.
The largest artwork display is the Maine Monument at the southwest/Columbus Circle entrance in memory of the 260 crewmen who died in the Battleship explosion in Havana. William Randolph Hearst funded it's placement in 1913.
The oldest artwork is an obelisk positioned behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art along the main loop bordering the Great Lawn. Donated by William Vanderbilt in 1881, this 71-foot-tall Egyptian structure predates 1460 B.C. and is likely the oldest thing in the entire city.
Squelched plans for sites inside the Park included for an airport, race track, Grant's Tomb, elevated el-trains, a burial ground for NY's prominent, and other privately funded "self-glorifying" monuments and statues.
7,674 benches can accomodate 23,022 adults. Demonstrations/rioting broke out in 1902 when a city commissioner thought he could ease city debt by "renting" bench space for 5-cents a sit!
The 106-acre reservoir accounts for one-eighth of park space and is under review for what to do with this body of water which no longer serves it's intended purpose. The current reservoir replaced the smaller, older Croton Reservoir which was filled in to become the Great Lawn.
The Central Park Conservancy was formed in 1980 to assume full responsibility for the Park's full upkeep often neglected by the financially-burdened city. $8.8 million, received by donations, was spent in 1985.
My favorite of their optical illusions can unknowingly be found on "The Mall", located in the central southern portion, which is also often referred to as The Promenade or Great Literary Walk for statues of famous writers. Much like today, people from the 1800's liked to see and be seen and this portion was designed for park patrons to be dropped off in their carriages for stolls. One of the creator's greatest concerns was the narrow width of the park boundaries. I'm not sure how they did it, but here's the key hint for discovering this mysterious masterpiece which deceptively manipulates the experience.
Approach The Mall from the south, as early park goers would, and stop at the beginning to gauge the distance to the other end. It'll look really far! Then, stop half way and look back/ahead to see how actually short it really is. Then, look back again from the other end to have your eyes deceived again. This tree canopied walkway draws the visitor forward into the plaza area in front of the bandshell and to the steps descending into Bethesda Terrace/Fountain therefore keeping you focused on the Park's length rather than the narrow width.
In the early days, the dense trees of The Ramble were also much shorter allowing promenade strollers to be drawn forward with glimpses of the distant turret of Belvedere Castle; the second optical illusion. Today, the castle houses one of the City's main weather monitoring centers which is open for tours. Access to the castle is from side trails; best views from The Great Lawn. Take a good distant look at the sizeable structure before you get up close and see just how small it really is. The illusion comes from being built at such a steep, ascending scale...that was later copied in building Disney's Cinderella castles that if you've ever seen, you know what size illusions I'm referring to.
The other wonder, you'll likely hear before you ever see or figure out what's actually going on. Since the Park extends 51 blocks, part of original requirements was for 4 passageways to connect east to west. Olmstead & Vaux, being the nature freaks and perfectionist designers they were, struggled with having the Park's natural effect interrupted with traffic and progress. The passageways are still here today just as originially concocted...sunken below the Park. You'll cross over them on bridges but in seasons when vegetation is thickest, you'd never know or see the rush of traffic if it weren't for the sounds.
With construction beginning shortly after, the Park was built by the poor for the rich to enjoy who still lived a long carriage ride away; the city hadn't passed beyond the 30's. By 1866, 20,000 immigrants were working 10-hour construction days for 90-cents to $1.50. From the beginning, nearly 2.5 million cubic yards of stone/earth were excavated, moved or brought in by horse-drawn cart...enough to raise the level of a football field 80 stories! Yet with progress, the wealthy and politicians continued to manipulate development in ways that made or broke careers including eventually those of Olmstead and Vaux.
The Park officially opened in July, 1859 with a concert attended by 4000+ people in The Ramble, the first completed area. However, first "unofficial" park frolickers were in December, '58 when about 300 people congregated to ice skate on the newly formed boat pond. Word spread, and more than an estimated 10,000 showed up the following Sunday. Not long after, the politicians/wealthy "closed" the Park on Sundays to officially keep out the poor who worked six days a week. Rioting ensued until access "for all" was permitted and the victory is still celebrated as New Yorker's definitely have to have "park" on Sundays; what I've referred to as likely the most devout and widely practiced pagan religion of the city.
OTHER NOTABLE FACTS - The proposed "wasteland" which became Central Park cost NYC $7,389,727.96. Year's later, the U.S. paid $7.2 million for 600,000 square miles...which became Alaska.
166 tons of gunpowder (more than used at the Battle of Gettysburg) was used for blasting more than 300,000 cubic yards of Gneiss rock veined with granite; much of which can still be seen within the park today.
In 1860, 2.5 million people visited Central Park. Over the next decade, attendance more than tripled growing 15 times faster than the city's population; almost 900,000 by this time.
Central Park was created in spite of the politicians, though their commotions at the Local, State & National levels did create a model for what the National Parks System was/is built on including the NPS and Yellowstone which didn't come about until 1872.
If not taking a cab, by far the quickest/easiest/cheapest way to arrive is by the red-2/3 express subway lines exiting at 110th & Lenox/6th Ave. which puts you at the Park's northern boundary. You'll immediately see the Harlem Meer (both Dutch words; Meer = Lake). I'll detail what you'll see by taking a left or right.
To the left at the Meer, you'll find a remodeled building known as Dana Discovery Center. I suggest picking up additional Park/Nature info brochures...and if you've urge to join many locals fishing, simple pole/line/hook fishing rods with doughball bait are issued free; a great experience for kids! There's an enjoyable walking path around the lake lined with benches filled with locals and "my/our" kids cutting classes. While most expect Blacks & Hispanics, ethnic diversity has greatly changed; especially with the new Parkview Hotel across the street which draws many foreign students.
Near the brick snack kiosk on the southern edge of the lake is a side entry to the Conservatory Gardens; something I highly recommend and reviewed seperately. On the SW-side of the lake is Lasker Recreation Center - a swimming pool in summer and ice skating rink in winter.
I've no qualms recommending safe parts "left" of the Park entry. "Right" is a naturally beautiful/secluded experience not for the timid or adventureless. Walking around the lake to the east, look back to the west and find an American Flag flying up in the woods. It marks the remains of a bunker from the War of 1812; the "oldest structure" standing within the Park. Cross the looping thoroughfare and find one of the pathes heading up the hill through the woods. There's historical facts/info boards at the Blockhouse bunker. The park has done wonders for cleaning up/policing this area, but you're still likely to see "strange types" out and about. DON'T be here after dark!
From here, you're best bet is to come back the way you came and head south on the loop towards the Recreation Center. When coming to the bridge, take a side trail down on the right which puts you on a path which follows The "Loch" waterway through the ravine and up to The Pool, another small lake. This is an easy trek for anyone looking to get away or nature lovers (remember this area's not developed!) From the pool area, you'll see the western boundary wall; beyond it is Central Park West Ave. where you can catch a local B/C train back to where you came from.