Central Park Face Lift: Before and After

Last week we reported on the revitalization of Central Park’s East Lawn. The post talks specifically about the destruction done to Central Park by 1970 and how the Central Park Conservancy restored many of the parks most beloved locations including The Great Lawn. In this post we bring you evidence of the sad state the park was in and how wonderful it looked after the Conservancy saved it. Bring out the before and after shots (click on them to make them larger):

Sheep Meadow

Sheep Meadow Before Restoration

Sheep Meadow Before Restoration

Sheep Meadow Restored 1980

Sheep Meadow Restored 1980

Oak Bridge

Oak Bridge Before Restoration

Oak Bridge Before Restoration

Oak Bridge 2009

Oak Bridge 2009

Heckscher Playground

Heckscher Playground Before Restoration

Heckscher Playground Before Restoration

Heckscher Playground Restored 2006

Heckscher Playground Restored 2006

Great Lawn

Great Lawn Before Restoration

Great Lawn Before Restoration

Great Lawn Restored 1997

Great Lawn Restored 1997

Belvedere Castle

Belvedere Castle Before Restoration

Belvedere Castle Before Restoration

Belvedere Castle Restored 1983

Belvedere Castle Restored 1983

The Dairy

The Dairy Before Restoration

The Dairy Before Restoration

The Dairy Restored 1981

The Dairy Restored 1981

Photos courtesy of Central Park Conservancy Flickr Feed.

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Bike sharing comes to NYC

In 1894, New York City created the country’s first bike path. It was designed by Central Park’s architects, Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. The bike path lays in a median on Ocean Parkway to this day and is landscaped with trees and shaded benches. It stretches five miles from Prospect Park, Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park which was also created by Olmsted and Vaux, to Coney Island.

Olmsted considered himself more a civil servant than an engineer and was always trying to improve a citizen’s quality of life with his design. As such it stands to reason that he would have been quite fond of New York City’s new bike sharing program scheduled to begin in Spring of 2012. But just as Olmsted’s visions were often met with resistance, so are those by one of the city’s current visionaries.

Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s Transportation Commissioner, has been vigilantly working since her appointment in 2007 to make New York a bike friendly city. She regularly speaks of the benefits of streets that serve all the city’s residents and not just automobiles. Sadik-Khan added over 250 miles of bike lane to New York’s roads to date and is responsible for the creation of several pedestrian plazas in areas like Herald Square and Times Square. Her ideas are praised by many yet she’s received some strong resistance in City Hall and from a group in Park Slope that opposed the placement of a bicycle lane. Still, Kahn has paved the way, literally, to bring bike sharing to New York and it seems to be a reality.

Just recently, New York accepted a bid from Alta Bicycle Share, a company that runs bike sharing programs in Washington DC and Boston. Capital Bike Share, their program in DC, just celebrated its first year and the program seems to be going strong:

The bike sharing program allows members to take a bike and ride it anywhere they want in the city where they can drop it off at the nearest docking station. The President of Alta Bicycle Share, also notes that bike sharing will make the city “a healthier, cleaner, greener and safer place.” An NYC pricing plan has not been finalized but in DC, a yearly membership costs $75 or $5 for the day. The first half hour of the bike share is included in the cost of the membership. After that the price starts to go up. At first there’s only a $1.50 uptick for the second half our. But then it’s three dollars for the third and six for every half hour afterwards. The idea being, take your bike, get where you’re going and then give it back. This must also be comforting to bike rental companies who make a significant amount of their income renting bicycles at Columbus Circle, the most requested share station submitted via the DOT’s bike share website. Though they may lose out on some shorter term rental business depending on the pricing structure in NYC. Central Park Bike Rentals, the company that officially rents in Central Park currently charges $20 for a two-hour walk-up rental.

Are you excited about the upcoming bike share program? Do you think there will be an uptick in share bikes being used in the park? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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The Return of Tavern on the Green?

Tavern on the Green

Tavern on the Green

Tavern on the Green was arguably the most famous restaurant in New York. The one time sheepfold turned upscale eatery was the highest grossing restaurant in the country when the operators filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Since that time tourists and New Yorkers alike have speculated about Tavern’s future.

Tavern on the Green was never know for its food. Several Yelp reviews sound like this one from Heather H, “certainly a beautiful restaurant, but this place provided me with one of the worst, overpriced, slowest served, least exciting meals I’ve ever had in the entirety of my life.” Instead visitors came for the one of a kind ambiance. The restaurant offered six dining rooms each uniquely decorated with stained glass, sculptures, topiaries, chandeliers, and lots of crystal. Unfortunately Tavern had to auction off everything to pay their debtors.

Shortly after the restaurant closed, the city renovated the building and reopened it as a visitor’s center. They also made contracts with four food trucks that would sit in Tavern’s courtyard: Rickshaw Dumplings, Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, Pera Turkish Taco and Ladle of Love (which left due to low profits). Some members of the Central Park Conservancy expressed their excitement about the renovation stating that it was now closer to how the building looked when it was a sheepfold. But it seemed most continued to mourn the loss of the restaurant.

Tavern on the Green Interior

Tavern on the Green Interior

Guests of our Central Park tour regularly ask us whether it will ever open as a restaurant again. Till this point, Tavern on the Green’s fate has been shrouded in mystery. Then, this month something very interesting happened. Food truck operators were told that their contracts with the city were unlikely to be renewed and that they should plan on closing down on October 15th. “They said there’s a capital project being planned.” Burak Karacam, managing owner of the Pera Turkish Tacos truck told the Wall Street Journal.

Crain’s New York reported earlier this month that the mayor’s office requested reports on Tavern’s “current conditions” from the Department of Design and Construction. But Andrew Brent, spokesperson for Mayor Bloomberg’s office say that the city is merely “doing basic stabilization and renovation work” to Tavern on the Green and say there are “no specific plans” for its future.

To add to all of this, Dean Poll, owner of the Boathouse restaurant in Central Park issued a statement via a spokesman Frank Marino after settling a 44 day labor dispute today. “Dean continues to have a strong interest in Tavern on the Green and this agreement with the Hotel Trades Council certainly lays out a blueprint for a future deal at Tavern should the opportunity present itself.”

Is Tavern on the Green destined to once again become a restaurant? We’d like to hear from you. Feel free to share your comments below.

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This Saturday: Great day to own (or be) a dog

My Dog Loves Central Park Country Fair

My Dog Loves Central Park Country Fair

It’s hard to own a dog in New York. Finding an apartment that allows you to bring your canine friend can be difficult, particularly if you have a larger dog. Then of course there’s following your dog around with a bag when you walk them. Saturday will be no different… as far as the bag goes. But this Saturday the city will give back to those who are faithful to man’s best friend by throwing the “My Dog Loves Central Park Country Fair.”

Ok, ok, they probably could have spent a little more time on the title, but it seems the event itself will be pretty spectacular:

My Dog Loves Central Park Country Fair
Naumburg Bandshell (Mid-Park at 72nd Street)
Saturday, September 24, 11:00 am – 3:00 pm (weather permitting; no rain date.)

Mark your calendars, and don’t forget to bring Sparky (on leash, please)! Central Park Paws, a program of the Central Park Conservancy, invites dogs and owners of all ages to celebrate Central Park’s vibrant dog community and promote responsible stewardship of the Park at our 9th Annual My Dog Loves Central Park Country Fair. This free event features:

…THE BEST IN PARK DOG SHOW under the direction of David Muriello of Bisquits & Bath. Dogs and owners who show good dog behavior in three preliminary rounds throughout the day will compete for the title of 2011 Best in Park Dog at 2:30 pm,

…GAMES AND CONTESTS hosted by emcee Jeremy Johnson on the Bandshell stage where dogs can “strut their stuff,”

…CELEBRITY JUDGES, including:
Prince Lorenzo Borghese, animal advocate, star of the reality TV series THE BACHELOR, founder/President of Royal Treatment Italian Pet Spa products
Karen Biehl, star of NYC Life’s reality series “Doggie Moms,” owner of Eli the Celebrity Chihuahua, committee member of NYC 4 ACC, supporter of animal charities and events
Wendy Diamond, pet lifestyle guru, media personality, and founder/editor of ANIMAL FAIR magazine
Julia Szabo, a.k.a. Pet Reporter, the author of six books and the daily “Living With Dogs” column for dogster.com

…A TOP TIPS TENT, where experts will offer demonstrations and advice on a range of topics,

…AN AGILITY COURSE, GIVEAWAYS, CANINE GOOD CITIZEN TESTING, MICROCHIPPING, AND MORE!

Lend us a hand on event day! Learn how to volunteer here.

Learn more about dogs in Central Park here.

No advance registration. For more information, call 212-360-1461.

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East Lawn Restored After 30 Years

East Lawn being mowed before opening on Tuesday

East Lawn being mowed before opening on Tuesday

Central Park’s East Meadow reopened this Tuesday, adding one more beautiful pastoral setting for New Yorkers to enjoy. While this may seem like just another ribbon cutting, it’s actually a significant restoration to the park which has taken over 30 years to come to fruition.

The 1970s were not good to New York City or Central Park for that matter. Author Allan Tennenbaum called the city “dirty, dangerous and destitute.” Things became so bad that the city lobbied the Federal Government for a financial bail-out. President Ford said no and The Daily News printed the famous headline, “Ford to City – Drop Dead.”

Much of Central Park was covered in graffiti. Lampposts had been decapitated. Famous park buildings like Belvedere Castle and The Dairy were closed to the public and used as storage sheds. Central Park’s lawns also suffered. 1960s protests, peace rallies and concerts had turned the park’s meadows into dusty, grey expanses that flooded when it rained.

East Lawn Before Restoration

East Lawn Before Restoration

But all that changed in 1979 when the Central Park Conservancy was founded by Betsy Rogers and Gordon Davis. They created a non-profit organization completely separate from the city that would raise funds to help restore and manage Central Park. The organization currently raises 85% of the park’s annual budget through private donatation.Since the founding of the Conservancy, they managed to restore most of the park landmarks and as of this Tuesday all seven of the park’s meadows.

“It looked like a dust bowl before, a six acre dust bowl, and today we have six acres of green meadowland with new Kentucky Bluegrass, all put in by the Central Park Conservancy to create what the park’s founders, Olmsted and Vaux, believed to be the ideal example of a pastoral meadowland,” said Dena Libner of the conservancy.

The renovations cost $3 million dollars and include a new irrigation system, improved grading for better drainage, enhanced horticulture on the surrounding land, clay ovals for all-weather sports, and brand new topsoil and sod.

East Lawn After Restoration

East Lawn After Restoration

“This has been a long time coming,” Neil Calvanese, the conservancy’s vice president for operations, told The New York Times. “We’re very happy to see it the way it should be, with this luxurious cover of new turf and framed by magnificent trees.”

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Filmed in Central Park: Glee

Hopefully all you Gleeks enjoyed last night’s season premiere of Glee. Lots of romantic surprises, some shaky tryouts, and one of the New Directions gets banned from glee club. McKinley High is more determined than ever to reach Nationals this year after last year’s disappointment. You may recall that the season finale (the Nationals episode) was filmed in New York City and Central Park got its fair share of camera time.

The Central Park Mall

The Central Park Mall

While they were supposed to be working on their original songs, the glee club hit the town and went to Times Square, Lincoln Center, Washington Square Park and the Central Park Mall as they sang “I Love New York/New York, New York”:

The Central Park Mall was designed as a promenade for people to come and show off their best clothes. Yes, life in the 1860s was a little different! At one point there was a gazebo at the end of the mall. On the weekends the area was full of New Yorkers listening to music.

Later in the episode, Finn returns to Central Park to meet Rachael for a “work date” which later turns into a real date. The work date begins on Bow Bridge:

Bow Bridge

Bow Bridge

It’s not the first time this gorgeous cast-iron bridge, one of the park’s last remaining original bridges, has been used in a film. It was also used in Autumn in New York, Keeping The Faith, Spiderman 3, Uptown Girls and television shows Ugly Betty, Gossip Girl, and Will and Grace. The bridge connects Cherry Hill to The Ramble and rowboats and gondolas frequent the lake below. Check it out here in the Glee-wind of the Season 2 finale.

We also found this clip of the actors filming on the bridge:

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Overheard in Central Park – Top 10

Publishers Michael Malice and S. Morgan Friedman are behind a popular New York City blog called Overheard in New York. The site regularly posts snippets of conversations heard in passing all over New York. Below you will find our ten favorite posts that came from conversations in Central Park:

I Love My Custodial Weekends
Whiny four-year-old boy: Daaad! I’m bored!
Dad: We came here to be bored.

I Sometimes Despair of Ever Closing the Vast Chasm Between the Races
White girl #1: Dude, I just knocked off work.
White girl #2: Where you working?
White girl #1: The florist.
White girl #2: Dude, that’s pretty gangster.

Isn’t That Why We Come Here? –Central Park Zoo
Creepster #1: Jesus, all the people who come to the zoo smell like shit.
Creepster #2: Or maybe that’s just the zoo…

Remembrance of Things Pissed
Teen boy #1, pointing to a bush: That’s where we peed last time.
Teen boy #2: Really?

But at Least You’ve Gotten That Whole “Chicken of the Sea” Thing Straight Now, Right?
Girl #1: I am, like, so dumb. I mean, really dumb. People look at me and think I’m dumb.
Girl #2: Yeah…

That Poor Blow-Up Doll
Chick #1: I think he beats her, you know.
Chick #2: No!
Chick #1: Yeah. But that’s just, like, how boys get out their frustration.

To Be Fair, No One Knows Why Bob Saget Has a Career
Little Asian girl: But why?
Mom: I don’t know, honey.
Little Asian girl: But why?
Mom: I just said that I don’t know!
Little Asian girl: But why don’t you know, Mommy?
Mom: Because Mommy’s stupid.

Um, I Created a Life.
Stuffy white lady pushing stroller, to friend: I can’t believe people are actually taking Justin Timberlake seriously these days.
Hipster crossing East: He brought sexy back, bitch! What the hell did you do?

She’s Imagining a Future Without Him – Strawberry Fields
College-Aged guy: “Imagine”?? I don’t get it. What am I supposed to imagine?
Girlfriend: Shhh, let’s go!

Do You Want to Smell Like Uncle Walter?
Tourist dad: Kids, you have pay attention when we’re in the big city, ’cause…
Daughter: ‘Cause if you don’t you die?
Dad: No, you could get lost and then you’ll become a street person.

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Video of Andrea Bocelli in Central Park

Crowd at Bocelli Concert

Crowd at Sept 15, 2011 Bocelli Concert

Bocelli’s fans came in droves despite the rain for his September 15th Central Park Concert. We scoured the web to find you the best shaky, handheld camera concert videos we could:

Bocelli with Celine Dion (The Prayer)

Bocelli with Tony Bennett (New York, New York)

Bocelli with Ana Marĺa Martĺnez

Bocelli with Bryn Terfel (Movie Theme Songs)

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Central Park On Screen: “Angels in America”

Bethesda Fountain

Bethesda Fountain

She sits high above the passersby at the end of the Central Park Mall which culminates at Bethesda Terrace. Drawn from the Gospel of St. John, the Angel of the Waters attracts more visitors than any other place in the park. Central Park is featured in over 240 feature films and many more television shows and the Bethesda Fountain that our angel sits on, is the most filmed location in the park. It was famously featured in the movie “Angels in America” based on the play of the same name by Tony Kushner.

“I think that that angel is the most beautiful angel on earth,” says Kushner in an interview with Ric Burns. “It is a very American angel. I think she has a very homespun quality. Her dress is not completely full-length. It sort of stops at her ankles. I think Emma Stebbins, the woman who sculpted her, got a lot of bad reviews when the statue was unveiled, because critics, who are always wrong about everything, said, ‘she looks like a milkmaid.’ This is not a grand beautiful angel. This is sort of a lumpy peasant girl angel. And I think that that’s true to a certain extent. It’s part of what makes her exquisite. I love this gesture as if she’s reaching out and touching something incredibly specific, and incredibly precious, and within reach.”

Kushner tells us in the film and original script that the statue commemorates those who died in the Union Army in American Civil War. This is actually incorrect. The fountain was built to celebrate the opening of the Croton Aqueduct which brings fresh water to New York City from upstate NY. In the most recent edition of Angels in America, this fact has been corrected. Here’s the closing sequence from the film which takes place at the fountain. Prior tells us how this is his favorite place in the park and explains the story of the Bethesda Fountain told in the Bible:

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Tropical Bird survives Hurricane Irene in Central Park

Male Cockatiel

Cockatiel survives Hurricane Irene, finds refuge in Central Park

F3CNUP5PVPJ7: Josie the cockatiel joins the rank of beloved creatures with ties to Central Park. For some time the media reported on the Central Park peacock, the Central Park wolf, and the Central Park lamb. Now, we present, the Central Park Cockatiel. Our friends over at DNA.info recently shared the tale.

A routine trip to the vet went bad when Jim DiGiovanni, an Upper West Side resident, accidentally opened his bird carrier on the street while trying to check that it was securely shut. His pet cockatiels, Cliffy and Josie, flew away. He and his partner immediately started papering the area with signs.

Missing Cockatiels

Josie and Cliffy, The Missing Cockatiels

The first call they received was unfortunate. Cliffy had been found wounded. DiGiovanni rushed the bird to the vet but it was too late. It seemed all was lost for Josie too when Hurricane Irene rolled into New York. The owners assumed they’d never see their bird again. But they were wrong. They received a call from The Central Park Conservancy. Josie had been found. A veterinarian got to work flushing out pebbles and bits of metal that the bird tried to eat. He was dehydrated and almost half the weight he was before he was lost but in the end, Josie pulled through. The owners were told that he may have survived due to the abundance of water from the hurricane. The vet who treated the bird explained that domesticated birds don’t forage well in the wild and usually suffer from dehydration or malnutrition.

DiGiovanni was so pleased to have Josie back that he’s become a lifetime donor to the Central Park Conservancy. The Conservancy is a non-profit responsible for the restoration and maintenance of the park. They provide 85% of Central Park’s budget.

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