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.
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, Olmstead 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.
“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.”