May 05, 2014

New York's Central Park

Central Park in Manhattan. One of the pre-eminent urban parks in all the world. Thirty-five million visitors come to Central Park every year to enjoy its 315 ha. It is about 4 km in length and 800 m wide. In comparison, Vancouver's Stanley Park was created in 1888 and is 405 ha in size. About eight million visitors come to Vancouver's urban park annually.

Established with some sort of vision in 1857, Central Park has struggled through the years. The first struggle came when 1600 people living in the area, mainly poor Irish-Americans and poor but free African-Americans, were displaced from their neighbourhoods in order to create the park in the first place. Theirs were neighbourhoods with names like Seneca, Harsenville and The Piggery District. That might discount the fact that in the beginning years of European settlement in the area that became NYC, First Nations people had to be displaced too, though that was probably seen as an ending rather than a beginning.

In any event. Central Park went through some problems, largely with political corruption, often from the Democratic Party machine, and later, in the 1960s and 70s with sheer neglect and crime. Still, it was always a place for New Yorkers to come to relax and enjoy some peace within their city. Beginning in the 1980s Central Park's image and management changed significantly and today the park is central to the city, and it is clean, safe and tranquil.

In summer there are free concerts in the park featuring jazz, opera and more. While we visited on several days over the course of our visit we saw buskers performing jazz, hip hop and opera. This young woman performed brilliantly for about eighty and was ever so grateful for the applause she received for her operatic performance.

Central Park is also home to Strawberry Fields, which is across from the Dakota building on the Upper West Side. The foot path memorial is simple beyond words which is all the more appropriate for just another Liverpudlian immigrant to New York, even though Nixon tried to send him away.

And we all shine on. Like the moon and the stars and the sun. And Central Park.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.