An Overview of New York City’s Central Park

Central Park is the most famous outdoor park in America. The park sits between the Upper East and Upper West sides of Manhattan and receives up to 42 million visitors annually. It covers a land mass of 843 acres, making it the fifth-largest park in the state of New York. It is also the most filmed park in the world.

The government put the plan for the park into motion because of calls from citizens who wished for a place to escape the city’s bustle. Residents asked the city government to construct a large park, which the state approved in 1853. Nicholas Bean, president of the Croton Aqueduct, proposed the company’s reservoir as a site for the park, which would be sufficient to pump water around the park due to the large supply of water in the reservoir.

The city of New York held a design competition for the park in 1857. Two architects, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux won the contest after submitting their design called the Greensward Plan. After bulldozing some buildings on the site, the park’s construction began in the same year and cost the city $7.2 million.

The designers divided Central Park into three parts — the North End, which houses the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir; Mid-Park, which lies between the two biggest water bodies in the area, the Lake and Conservatory Water (a pond); and the South End, which is located below the Lake and Conservatory Water. The city built a large stone wall around the park with 20 gates, but only four are accessible today through open plazas. Columbus Circle is one of the more famous plazas and holds the Columbus Monument, a prominent tourist attraction. Central Park contains eight artificial lakes, several wooded areas, lawns, playgrounds, and a zoo.

The square Grand Army Plaza contains the Pulitzer Fountain, an outdoor fountain named after publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who donated $50,000 to its construction. Duke Ellington Circle is the third plaza at the northeast point of the park; it houses the Duke Ellington Memorial, a sculpture named after the prominent jazz musician. The final plaza is Frederick Douglass Circle, named after the American social reformer and abolitionist.

Up to 571 animals and wildlife species live in Central Park, according to a 2013 survey conducted by William E. Macaulay Honors College. The park also contains thousands of trees, with some species in clusters, such as pines, cherry trees, and London planes. The elm grove in Central Park is popular for having the largest American elm trees in the country. The park also has endangered trees and animals, such as the migratory monarch butterfly and the Pumpkin Ash tree.

Central Park’s Conservancy, a nonprofit organization, governs the park in conjunction with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. However, maintenance is solely in the hands of the Conservancy. The Conservancy also maintains other parks, including the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Central Park has its police precinct and a consistently low crime rate. Similarly, the park also has its own medical unit and fire department.

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Ben Pike

A New York, New York-based private equity investor and executive, Ben Pike serves as a Principal at Ares Management.