Central Park is a public park in the center of Manhattan in New York City, United States. The park initially opened in 1857, on 843 acres of city-owned land. In 1858, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux won a design competition to improve and expand the park with a plan they entitled the Greensward Plan. Construction began the same year and was completed in 1873. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963. Central Park is bordered on the north by West 110th Street, on the south by West 59th Street, on the west by Eighth Avenue, along the park’s borders, these streets are known as Central Park North, Central Park South, and Central Park West. Only Fifth Avenue along the park’s eastern border retains its name.
The park, which receives approximately thirty-five million visitors annually, is the most visited urban park in the United States. . It is similar in size to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, Chicago’s Lincoln Park, Vancouver’s Stanley Park, and Munich’s Englischer Garten.
While foliage in much of the park appears natural, it is in fact almost entirely landscaped. The park contains several natural-looking lakes and ponds that have been created artificially, extensive walking tracks, bridle paths, two ice-skating rinks (one of which is a swimming pool in July and August), the Central Park Zoo, the Central Park Conservatory Garden, a wildlife sanctuary, a large area of natural woods, a 106-acre (43 ha) billion-gallon reservoir with an encircling running track, and an outdoor amphitheater, called the Delacorte Theater, which hosts the “Shakespeare in the Park” summer festivals. Indoor attractions include Belvedere Castle with its nature center, the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, and the historic Carousel. In addition there are numerous major and minor grassy areas, some of which are used for informal or team sports, some are set aside as quiet areas, and there are a number of enclosed playgrounds for children. The 6 miles (10 km) of drives within the park are used by joggers, bicyclists, skateboarders, and inline skaters, especially on weekends and in the evenings after 7:00 p.m., when automobile traffic is prohibited.
- Birding: A wooded section of the park called “The Ramble” is popular among birders. Many species of woodland birds, especially warblers, may be seen in The Ramble in Spring and Fall.
- Boating: Rowboats and kayaks are rented on an hourly basis at the Loeb Boathouse, which also houses a restaurant overlooking the Lake.
- Carriage horses: the carriage horse industry, revived in New York City in 1935, has been featured in various films; the first female carriage driver, Maggie Cogan, appeared in a newsreel in 1967. The ethics of this tradition and the effects on horse health and well being have been questioned by various animal rights activists.
- Pedicabs: Pedicabs operate mostly in the southern part of the park, the same part as horse carriages.
- Sports: Park Drive, just over 6 miles (9.7 km) long, is a haven for runners, joggers, bicyclists, and inline skaters. Most weekends, races take place in the park, many of which are organized by the New York Road Runners. The New York City Marathonfinishes in Central Park outside Tavern on the Green. Many other professional races are run in the park, including the recent, (2008), USA Men’s 8k Championships. Baseball fields are numerous, and there are also courts for volleyball, tennis, and lawn bowling.
- Rock Climbing: Central Park’s glaciated rock outcroppings attract climbers, especially boulderers; Manhattan’s bedrock, a glaciated schist, protrudes from the ground frequently and considerably in some parts of Central Park. The two most renowned spots for boulderers are Rat Rock and Cat Rock; others include Dog Rock, Duck Rock, Rock N’ Roll Rock, and Beaver Rock, near the south end of the park.
- Ice Skating: Central Park has two ice skating rinks, Wollman Rink and Lasker Rink, which converts to an outdoor swimming pool in summer.
- Central Park Carousel: the current carousel, installed in 1951, is one of the largest merry-go-rounds in the United States. The fifty-eight hand-carved horses and two chariots were made by Solomon Stein and Harry Goldstein in 1908. The carousel originally was installed in Coney Island in Brooklyn.
- Playgrounds: Central Park has twenty-one playgrounds for children located throughout the park, the largest, at 3 acres (12,000 m2), is Heckscher Playground named for August Heckscher.
- Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre: located in the Swedish Cottage. The building was originally a model schoolhouse built in Sweden. Made of native pine and cedar, it was disassembled and rebuilt in the U.S. as Sweden’s exhibit for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Frederick Law Olmsted moved the cottage to its present site in 1877.
- Central Park Zoo: The Central Park Zoo is one of four zoos, and one aquarium, managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The zoo is home to an indoor rainforest, a leafcutter ant colony, a chilled penguin house, and a Polar Bear pool.
Each summer, the Public Theater presents free open-air theatre productions, often starring well-known stage and screen actors. The Delacorte Theater is the summer performing venue of the New York Shakespeare Festival. Most, although not all, of the plays presented are by William Shakespeare, and the performances are generally regarded as being of high quality since its founding by Joseph Papp in 1962. The New York Philharmonic gives an open-air concert every summer on the Great Lawn, and the Metropolitan Opera presents two operas. Many concerts have been given in the park including Barbra Streisand, 1967; The Supremes, 1970; Carole King, 1973; Bob Marley & The Wailers, 1975; Elton John, 1980; the Simon and Garfunkel reunion, 1981; Diana Ross, 1983; Garth Brooks, 1997; the Dave Matthews Band, 2003, and Bon Jovi 2008. Since 1992, local singer-songwriter David Ippolito has performed almost every summer weekend to large crowds of passers-by and regulars and has become a New York icon, often simply referred to as “That guitar man from Central Park.” In the summer of 1985, Bruce Springsteen planned to hold a free outdoor concert on the Great Lawn; however, the idea was scrapped when it was purported that any free show held by Springsteen would bring an estimated 1.3 million people, crippling the park and the nearby neighbourhoods. Each summer, City Parks Foundation offers Central Park Summer stage, a series of free performances including music, dance, spoken word, and film presentations. SummerStage will celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2010. Throughout its history Summer stage has welcomed emerging artists and world renowned artists, including Celia Cruz, David Byrne, Curtis Mayfield, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars, and Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer winner Toni Morrison, Femi Kuti, Seun Kuti, Pulitzer winner Junot Diaz, Vampire Weekend, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company, and many more.
With the revival of the city and the park in the new century, Central Park has given birth to arts groups dedicated to performing in the park, notably Central Park Brass, which performs an annual concert series and the New York Classical Theatre, which produces an annual series of plays. Central Park was home to the famed New York City restaurant Tavern on the Green which was located on the park’s grounds at Central Park West and West 67th Street. Tavern on the Green had its last seating on December 31, 2009 before closing its doors. Central Park was home to the largest concert ever on record. Country Superstar Garth Brooks performed a free concert in August 1997. About 980,000 attended the event, according to the FDNY
The first official list of birds observed in Central Park was drawn up by Augustus G. Paine, Jr.. Paine was an avid hobby ornithologist and, together with his friend Lewis B. Woodruff, drew up a list of birds counting over 100 species. This was regarded as the first official list and was published in Forest and Stream on June 10, 1886. An article in The New Yorker on 26 August 1974 calls attention to this early list. Over the decades the list has been updated and changed. The park is frequented by various migratory species of birds during their Spring and Fall migration on the Atlantic Flyway. Over a quarter of all the bird species found in the United States have been seen in Central Park. One of these species is the Red-tailed hawk, which re-established a presence in the park when a male hawk known as Pale Male for his light coloration, nested on a building on Fifth Avenue, across the street from the park. He became a local media celebrity and a prolific breeder. Central Park was the site of the misguided unleashing of European starlings in North America, a native of Eurasia which has become an invasive species. In April, 1890, eighty birds were released by Eugene Schieffelin, and the following March another eighty; these one hundred and sixty birds are the progenitors of the flocks which now span the United States and parts of Canada.
Raccoon (Procyon lotor): nocturnal tree dwellers that come down to ground level to feed at night, have become extremely common in Central Park in recent years, prompting the Parks Department to post rabies warnings around certain areas.
Eastern gray squirrel, or grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), is a tree squirrel in the genus Sciurus native to the eastern and midwestern United States.
Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus): although not commonly sighted, there are chipmunks in Central Park.
Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana): a nocturnal marsupial that rests in trees during the day and searches for food on the ground at night.
Arthropods: In 2002 a new genus and species of centipede (Nannarrup hoffmani) was discovered in Central Park. At about four-tenths of an inch (10 mm) long, it is one of the smallest centipedes in the world.
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