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Attention! Central Park Closed To Traffic At All Times

Central Park, New York City

Ecological conversations - what is true for trees is also true for people

When Central Park opened in 1858, it hardly reflected its name, located in what was then the northern reaches of Manhattan Island far away from the burgeoning development downtown. As the population grew in the second half of the 19th century, development finally began to encroach on Central Park and by the turn of the 20th century, huge and elaborate mansions of the “robber barons” lined Fifth Avenue on the east side of the park. Many of those mansions were subsequently torn down but were replaced with apartment buildings that reached up to the northern end of Central Park. The development that extended up both the east and west sides finally gave Central Park the look that its name implied. Today, it is difficult to imagine the scale of Central Park when it was first laid out in the mid-19th century; the tall buildings that surround the park today look as if they were always intended to be the protective fence around Central Park.

Close to the ground, the growing popularity of the automobile did not exactly challenge the layout of the network of transportation routes in Central Park—known for their separation of pedestrians, horseback riders, and later joggers, skaters, and bicyclists from the horse-drawn and later horseless carriages that moved through the park. By the late 20th century, it seems much of Central Park had been almost abandoned—due to crime and neglect—by people while becoming increasingly important traffic routes across Manhattan at intervals stretching from its southern end in Midtown at 59th Street to its northern end in Harlem at 110th Street.

The restoration and reclamation of Central Park from the 1980s to the present day has been one of the most successful and exciting urban renewal projects in modern times—focusing on the preservation of one of America’s most historic designed landscapes. In fact, the US government recently added Central Park to its list of sites being proposed for inscription in the World Heritage List. (Known as a Tentative List, in the nomenclature of the operating guidelines for the World Heritage Convention, the US Tentative List was last revised in 2016.

With many historic urban centers seeing increased economic activity with burgeoning populations, urbanist planners and governments have been looking for additional ways to make the urban living experience more amenable. While the elements of nature in Central Park certainly provide a respite from urban noise and frenetic activity for both residents and tourists alike, the number of automobiles that regularly use the park seriously limit those effect. Now, after a series of test periods first begun in 1966, New York City is banning cars from all Central Park scenic drives. The four east-west crosstown drives at 65th, 79th, 86th, and 97th streets will remain open to automobile traffic.


Central Park, Now More Delicious

By David George Haskell

The New York Times

June 27, 2018

Central Park’s Scenic Drives Will Soon Be Car-Free

By Jeffery C. Mays

The New York Times

April 20, 2018

Weekday Car Traffic to Be Banned in Parts of Central and Prospect Parks

By Benjamin Mueller

The New York Times

June 18, 2015

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