The Urban Landscape of New York City: How Central Park and Other Parks Contribute to the City

Central Park is a sprawling green space, with bodies of water, more than 20,000 trees, 30 tennis courts, 21 playgrounds and 26 baseball fields. It is more than just a park; it is an amalgamation of activities for people of all ages and a respite from the hustle and bustle of New York City. It is also home to some of the city's most important events, such as marathons and concerts, which draw in many visitors and contribute to the city's economy. A new PBS series looks at how urban planning, including New York's parks, has shaped the United States.

Central Park, designed and built in the mid-19th century, is one of the best examples of a park within a city. It was conceived as a much-needed refuge for New Yorkers of the time, and its naturalistic landscape remains an urban oasis that has been copied throughout the United States. The park's design also made its designers, Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, famous; they would later design Prospect and Fort Greene parks in New York, along with important projects in Buffalo, Chicago and other cities. Central Park has had a major impact on the urban landscape of New York City.

Spread over 51 blocks across Manhattan, it was built in 1858 on 843 acres of land, including 150 acres of water. Research from The Trust for Public Land (TPL) reveals that communities of color have 33.5% less park space per person within a 10-minute walk compared to white communities, and low-income communities have 21.2% less park space per person on a 10-minute walk compared to high-income communities. The TPL also estimated for the first time the total number of visits to the park system based on a survey and found that residents alone visited the city's parks at least 527 million times, which is much greater than the number of visitors from all of New York's state and federal park systems combined. As New York City goes through the COVID-19 pandemic, parks and open spaces have proven to be essential places to connect with each other, stay active and find peace, as well as opportunities to boost economic recovery through tourism and recreational value. With 42 million visitors a year, Central Park is one of the most visited urban parks in the country and one of the most popular destinations in New York City.

The Infrastructure Needs of NYC Parks

New York City has about 150 gardeners throughout the city in nearly 20,000 acres of parkland, not counting natural areas, and more than two million trees, a ratio of one gardener for every 133 acres.

A report funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation offers a new level of detail on the infrastructure needs of New York City's parks, including invisible infrastructure such as roads, built facilities and landscape. It covers both well-known facilities such as playgrounds and restrooms as well as less recognized but comprehensive components such as drainage systems and retaining walls. The Trust for Public Land reports that their costs are approximately half of what the Parks Department pays. For decades, New York City hasn't invested enough in basic maintenance and upkeep for its parks which has contributed to growing infrastructure problems.

The Impact Central Park Has Had on NYC

Central Park was originally intended to offer city residents an experience in nature away from urban life; however it has become much more than that over time. It has become an integral part of New York City's urban landscape that provides respite from city life while also contributing to its economy.

Beatrice Flesher
Beatrice Flesher

Professional web geek. Passionate food scholar. Subtly charming twitter practitioner. Amateur travel junkie. Certified beer junkie. Hardcore foodaholic.

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