How unique is Central Park?

Unless you want to listen to a fairly strange and convoluted tale, don’t ask what made me wonder this, but…

How unique is Central Park among the large cities of the world.

Flying into NYC, one is flabbergasted by the pecentage of Manhattan real estate taken up by the park. Considering what land is worth there, it is quite impressive that the park was able to survive development all of these years.

So, World Travelers, does anyone know if any of the other great population centers have an equivalent amount of undeveloped land for reacreation smack in the middle of them?

Just wondering.

Athens, Greece has the big ol’ National Gardens right smack in the middle of the city. I don’t really know how big it is, but it takes a while to walk through it.

Vancouver, B.C. has the enormous Stanley Park right downtown.

It’s the biggest some-kind-of-park in some-demographic-area, i’m pretty sure.

When I visited Washington DC, the city made the impression of one giant park punctuated with buildings and neighborhoods here and there.

I imagine property on Manhattan would be worth a lot less if it wasn’t for Central Park. Playing Sim City (the version that came out almost 10 years ago) I quickly noticed what a large park in the center of town did for occupany rates surrounding the park.

I think a large part of the reason so many people can live in such a small area is in large part due to the fact that Manhattan has such relatively large park in the middle of it. If you removed the park, I don’t think the island could sustain the same population density that it does.

Griffith Park in Los Angeles occupies 4,017 acres.
Since it’s a mountainous area in the middle of a rather spread out city, it doesn’t have the same effect as NYC’s Central Park however.
Nevertheless, it’s pretty big

The Bois de Boulogne, to the west of Paris.

Karma, according to the Vancouver parks board, at 1000 acres, Stanley Park is “North America’s third largest urban park”.

What is the largest city park in the U.S.?

I accidentally hit enter too soon, so I posted the above link without any comments. Sorry.

Cecil covered the topic of urban parks in What is the largest city park in the U.S.? which appeared in Return of the Straight Dope. (You will purchase a copy. NOW!)

In his column, Cecil noted that “park acreage is probably second only to city population when it comes to exaggeration, misinformation, and fraud.” In keeping with this, although, as Lord Derfel noted, the Vancouver parks web site says that, “at 1000 acres, Stanley Park is ‘North America’s third largest urban park’”, Cecil reported that a somewhat larger park, Chicago’s Lincoln Park, 1,185 acres was only around the 12th largest, so it looks like Vancouver is guilty of wishful thinking.

I actually prefer San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to Central Park (I have never gone into Central Park without getting hopelessly lost—I’m the original Wandering Jew!).

Quick Central Park joke. Years ago, I was visiting N.Y. and was spending a day at the museums with a city native. Coming out of the Guggenheim, we started to walk through Central Park and I made a quip about the chances of getting mugged. She said - you people from out of town are all alike. I’ve lived in New York all my life, and I’ve only been mugged twice.

With a name like Eve, I would have thought that the Garden of Eden was your favorite park.

Although technically not an urban park, since it is in an unincorporated section of Wake county, Umstead State Park, at 5,000+ acres, is slowly turning into a “central park” for Raleigh-Durham-Cary. Originally the park was far outside the borders of these communities, but now they have pretty much surrounded the park boundaries.

Somebody mention Lincoln Park? :slight_smile:

Chicago may not have the biggest single city park in the US, but we DO have the distinction of being the only major US city with parkland along most of its lakefront (oceanfront, riverfront, whatever) instead of industry, docks, or other commercial property. You can travel through a continuous park from Hollywood Avenue in the north (about 6000 North) to 67th Street in the south (6700 South, obviously). That’s over 16 miles (as the crow flies) of lakefront park. Basically, Lincoln Park, Grant Park (right in front of downtown), Burnham Park, and Jackson Park. And there are smaller parks along the shore north and south of this strip as well.

Someone else pointed out about high land values and occupancy near parks. Lincoln Park is completely lined with mile after mile of tall apartment and condo buildings, as are parts of Grant and Jackson Parks. The most densely-populated – and expensive – neighborhoods in Chicago are along the lakefront parks.

Yeah, North to South in Chicago along the lakefront would be lovely, if it wasn’t for that bloody monstrosity McCormick Place…why there, really, why in that spot???

I just happen to be writing an extensive paper on Central Park right now…so I will try to keep this really short…

The OP makes a very common mistake in assuming that CP is UNDEVELOPED land. It is anything but. It seems like a natural landscape that has been lined with paths, etc. but it is an entirely artificial landscape.

By the 1860s, the lower part of NY was getting very crowded. New ideas about the value of parks and open space were emerging. The elite classes of NY wanted to create a park which would a)mitigate the crowding that was taking over lower Manhattan, b) provide recreational opportunities to all classes, and c) serve a didactic purpose, essentially teaching the working classes how to recreate in a genteel fashion.

After much wrangling, it was decided that the new park should be in the location where it is now. This was far north of the population center, but the planners chose it because it was cheap. Why was it so cheap?
a) There was little development there already because it was…
b)undesirable land–swampy, rocky, ugly–a dumping ground. The only people who lived there were…
c) poor immigrants, squatters, the homeless, and barnyard animals. Who could not really protest their displacement.
In spite of these facts, the fact that the planners made it so large is truly remarkable.

To make a very long story short, a contest was held to plan the landscaping of the park. Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux won. One of the main things that differentiated their plan was that they planned that the cross-streets, which were necessary to carry traffic from the upper west to the upper east side, and vice versa, were sunk BELOW grade level, so that they would interfere only minimally with the park experience that Olmstead and Vaux were trying to create.

To create the Central Park which we know now, the swamps had to be drained, huge amounts soil had to be trucked in, and artifical hills were built. Needless to say, all the trees and plants were new, too.

CP is big only in relation to the land mass of Manhattan–it is not that big compared to other large parks in the US and the world. One of the reasons why you can walk through CP and see all the beautiful vistas and scenes is because Olmstead and Vaux planned it that way.

By the 1870s, the park was largely complete, and had a huge influence on urban park planning worldwide.

If you want to know more, read The Park and the People by Blackmar and Rosenzweig. Is is one of the most readable of the CP histories.

So why did Cecil omit Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis. According to the parks department:

This is dragged up from the dregs of my memory so it may not be accurate but…

Part of the reason that Central Park is not “developed” is geological. At both ends of Manhattan the bedrock is pretty close to the surface and therefore eminently suitable for anchoring large skyscrapers. In the central portion, including the park, the bedrock is much lower down and covered with relatively unstable soil. (Glacial till, I presume.) Constructing the very tall buildings characteristic of the rest of Manhattan is not possible due to the unsatisfactory soil conditions.

That’s what I remember anyway. Feel free to inform me if I’ve bought into an Urban Legend, which would in this case be a very apt description.

“I used to think the brain was the most important organ in the body, until I realized who was telling me that.”
Emo Phillips

Not so, Pluto. Just a legend.

Didn’t read my post, did ya? :wink:

Green Bean wrote:

Side Note: Olmstead also designed several of the numerous smaller parks in Atlanta.