Around Central Park and Bryant Park, New York City…Rondando por los Parques Bryant y Central, Nueva York

Central Park
On July 21, 1853, the New York State Legislature enacted into law the setting aside of more than 750 acres of land central to Manhattan Island to create America’s first major landscaped public park; they would soon refer to it as “the Central Park.” Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the winners of the 1858 design competition for Central Park, along with other socially conscious reformers understood that the creation of a great public park would improve public health and contribute greatly to the formation of a civil society. Immediately, the success of Central Park fostered the urban park movement, one of the great hallmarks of democracy of nineteenth century America.

By the early twentieth century, vicissitudes of the social, political and economic climate threatened the fabric of the Park and caused its first serious decline. Robert Moses, park commissioner from 1934 to 1960, received federal funding for the restoration of many eroded landscapes and crumbling structures, and embarked on massive public programming for the post-Depression populace. When he left office, however, there was no management strategy for maintaining those improvements or educating Park visitors in proper stewardship, and for the next two decades the second — and most devastating— decline took its toll on the fragile 843-acre Park.

Physically the Park was in a chronic state of decay. Meadows had become barren dustbowls; benches, lights, and playground equipment were broken, and the one-hundred-year-old infrastructure was crumbling. Socially, the Park bred a careless, even abusive attitude towards the Park evidenced by unchecked amounts of garbage, graffiti, and vandalism. Positive use had increasingly been displaced by illicit and illegal activity. The perception — and in many cases, the reality— of Central Park was of a lawless and dangerous ruin. Despite a workforce of over three hundred Parks Department employees assigned to Central Park, there was no accountability. New York City had abdicated their responsibility as Park stewards and, as a result, this national treasure became a national disgrace.

To help remedy this troubled situation, George Soros and Richard Gilder, under the aegis of the Central Park Community Fund, underwrote a management study of Central Park in 1974 by E.S. Savas, who was at that time the Columbia University School of Business, Professor of Public Systems Management. The groundbreaking study proposed that two important initiatives be implemented to ameliorate the conditions in Central Park: one, that a Chief Executive Officer be given “clear and unambiguous managerial authority” for all Park operations, and two, a Central Park Board of Guardians be created to oversee strategic planning and policy, thereby instituting private citizen involvement in their public park.

The study’s first proposal resulted in the appointment in 1979 of Elizabeth “Betsy” Barlow (now Rogers), a Yale-educated urban planner and writer, who became the newly created Central Park administrator, charged with overseeing all aspects of the Park’s daily operations, in essence the Chief Executive Officer recommended in the Savas study. For four years before her appointment, Betsy had been overseeing the Central Park Task Force’s program for summer youth interns, eventually becoming the head of that small, private organization, financially separate from the City but existing under the aegis of the Parks Department.

Given her new official status and responsibilities as administrator, Betsy first conceived of and then helped to create a revolutionary public/private partnership with the support of then park commissioner Gordon Davis that would bring private monies and expertise in partnership with the City of New York to manage and restore Central Park. In 1980, the two most prominent private advocacy groups — the Central Park Task Force and the Central Park Community Fund — merged to become the Central Park Conservancy — the citizen-based Board of Guardians that the Savas study had essentially recommended.

Under a Conservancy-funded master plan, the gradual restoration of those decrepit landscapes evolved, and success bred success. As the Conservancy showed its ability to protect and maintain its investment, many more private individuals, foundations and corporations put their trust and their money into the restoration of the Park. To date, the Conservancy has had three successful capital campaigns towards rebuilding Central Park. The first campaign was launched in 1987; the second, “The Wonder of New York Campaign,” was launched when Richard Gilder made a challenge grant to the Conservancy and the City in 1993. The work was continued in the “Campaign for Central Park,” which ended in 2008, ensuring the completion of the Park’s transformation. Most importantly, for the first time in the Park’s turbulent history, the Conservancy has created an endowment that will ensure a sustainable green and healthy future for Central Park.

In 1998 a historic management agreement between the Conservancy and the City of New York formalized the then 18-year public-private partnership. With that contract Douglas Blonsky, who began his career in 1985 in the Conservancy’s Capital Projects office as a landscape architect supervising construction projects, assumed Betsy’s title of Central Park administrator. In 2004 he assumed the additional role of president of the Conservancy and CEO, responsible for not only the Park’s management but also all fundraising and administrative duties.

Blonsky created innovative management practices to ensure that those healthy new landscapes would have a skilled and dedicated staff to maintain them in a professional manner. His clear vision for a well-managed and well-maintained Park took the Conservancy’s design and restoration vision one step further with the implementation of Zone Management System, which brought accountability, pride of workmanship, and clear and measurable results to the Conservancy and Parks Department staff under his jurisdiction. Under this pioneering system, the Park is divided into 49 geographic zones for managerial purposes, each headed by a zone gardener, who in turn supervises grounds technicians and volunteers.

The Park’s restorations gradually fostered important social changes in public behavior that returned the sanctity of public space to Central Park and ultimately to New York City at large. The American ideal of a great public park and its importance as a place to model and shape public behavior and enhance the quality of life for all its citizens once again defines the measurement of a great municipality. Towards this goal, the Conservancy was first in its demonstration of zero tolerance for both garbage and graffiti. An immediate call to action came when even the slightest sign of vandalism appeared in the Park — a busted lamppost or broken bench, for example— and became the tipping point, that turned public opinion of Central Park from one of dire repulsion to one of deep respect.

Today Central Park has never been more beautiful or better managed in the Park’s 156-year history, and the Conservancy is proud to be the leader of the Park’s longest period of sustained health and beauty. To date the Conservancy has raised $800 million towards the restoration, programming and management of Central Park and is responsible for 75 percent of this year’s annual operating budget of $65 million. Furthermore, just as Central Park was the leader in the birth of urban parks, so today Central Park, through the Conservancy’s innovative care and expertise, is the leader in the rebirth of urban parks, public spaces and the quality of life movement. City officials and park professionals from across America and around the world come to the Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks to learn of its best practices to restore and manage their local parks.

Bryant Park today
The modern Bryant Park
By 1979, New York seemed to have given up Bryant Park for lost as an urban amenity, as well as an historic site. In 1974, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Bryant Park as a Scenic Landmark, calling it “a prime example of a park designed in the French Classical tradition – an urban amenity worthy of our civic pride.” Five years later, however, William H. (“Holly”) Whyte wrote in a report solicited by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund: “If you went out and hired the dope dealers, you couldn’t get a more villainous crew to show the urgency of the [present Bryant Park] situation.”
But by the late 1990s, actual lunchtime head counts on a sunny day would reach the 4,000 range – and the drug traffickers had been gone for a decade. The Rockefeller Brothers created the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation (BPRC), under the founding leadership of Andrew Heiskell, then Chairman of Time Inc. and the New York Public Library, and Daniel A. Biederman, a Harvard Business School graduate and systems consultant with a reputation as an innovator in downtown management. Heiskell and Biederman, in 1980, created a master plan for turning around the park. In the words of an Urban Land Institute case study, “Biederman began experimenting with a series of efforts to bring people back to the park, while also exploring how to generate revenue.”
A seven-year push combined supplementary park maintenance, temporary kiosks, and public events ranging from historical park tours to concerts, which reduced crime by 92 percent and doubled the number of annual park visitors.
Summer 1988 saw city agencies approve BPRC’s plans (drafted by Hanna/Olin Ltd.) to build new entrances for increased visibility from the street, to enhance the formal French garden design (with a lush redesign by Lynden Miller), and improve and repair paths and lighting. BPRC’s plan also included restoration of the park’s monuments, and renovation of its long-closed restrooms. That same summer, the city approved BPRC’s designs (by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates), for two restaurant pavilions and four concession kiosks, which were to generate off-peak activity and added revenue for operations. These facilities opened in stages in the 1990s.
Bryant Park reopened in April, 1992, to lavish praise from citizens and visitors, the media, and urbanists. And, as the Urban Land Institute wrote it in an award citation, “the success of the park feeds the success of the neighborhood.” Soon the chorus was joined by the business community, whose assessments helped fund the renewal and now benefit from higher rents and property values.

El Central Park es un parque urbano público situado en el distrito metropolitano de Manhattan, en la ciudad de Nueva York, Estados Unidos. El parque tiene forma rectangular y dimensiones aproximadas de 4000 x 800 m, siendo más grande que dos de las naciones más pequeñas del mundo; es casi dos veces más grande que Mónaco y casi ocho veces más que la Ciudad del Vaticano.
Con unos 25 millones de visitantes al año, Central Park es el parque más visitado de los Estados Unidos (aunque el Fairmount Park de Filadelfia es diez veces más grande, Central Park tiene 2,5 veces más visitantes, y los 25 millones de visitantes anuales que recibe Central Park quintuplican los que visitan el Parque Nacional del Gran Cañón, en Arizona ). Además, su aparición en numerosas películas, además de en programas de televisión, lo ha convertido en uno de los parques urbanos más famosos del mundo. El parque está dirigido por la Central Park Conservancy, una empresa privada sin ánimo de lucro, que tiene un contrato con el Departamento de Parques y Ocio de Nueva York.
Central Park limita por el norte con la 110th Street, por el oeste con la calle Central Park West, por el sur con la 59th Street y por el este con la Quinta Avenida. Los tramos de estas calles que pasan alrededor de Central Park son conocidas normalmente con el nombre de Central Park North, Central Park South y Central Park West, respectivamente; aunque la Quinta Avenida conserva su nombre a su paso por el lado este del parque. Central Park tiene su propia sección censal en los Estados Unidos, la número 143. Según el Censo de 2000, la población del parque es de dieciocho personas, doce hombres y seis mujeres, con una media de edad de 38,5 años. El actual valor inmobiliario de Central Park se estima que es de unos 528 783 552 000 dólares según la apreciación de Miller Samuel.
El parque fue diseñado por Frederick Law Olmsted y Calvert Vaux, quienes más tarde crearon el Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.
Mientras que gran parte del parque parece natural, contiene varios lagos artificiales, dos pistas de patinaje sobre hielo y áreas de hierba usadas para diversas actividades deportivas.
El parque es un popular oasis para aves migratorias, lo que lo convierte en un lugar concurrido por observadores de pájaros.

Bryant Park
El Bryant Park, con una superficie de 3,9 hectáreas, se encuentra en el corazón del Midtown (Manhattan), el barrio de negocios más importante de la ciudad de Nueva York, en los Estados Unidos. Se trata de un jardín a la francesa rodeado de rascacielos. Dentro del parque se encuentra la New York Public Library.
Espacio de hierba con rascacielos de fondo.
El Bryant Park tiene forma rectangular. Ocupa el espacio situado entre las calles 40 y Calle 42 y entre la Quinta Avenida y la Sexta Avenida. Está rodeado por otros edificios, entre los cuales destacan el American radiator building y la nueva Bank of America Tower.
Ha sido apodado como el petit luxembourg debido a sus sillas, mesas y su carrousel.
El parque abrió en 1843 con el nombre de Reservoir Park, en referencia a la reserva de Croton Distributing Reservoir que se encontraba allí. En 1853, por primera vez se realizó la primera exposición universal americana, se construyó un Crystal Palace inspirado en el Londres, que fue destruido por un incendio cinco años más tarde. En 1878, una línea de metro aéreo se construyó sobre el parque y estuvo allí durante sesenta años. El parque cambió de nombre en 1884 en homenaje al poeta y periodista William Cullen Bryant. En 1899, la reserva Croton fue destruida y fue reemplazada por la New York Public Library. En 1912 se construyó la Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain, concebida por Charles Adams Platt. Era el primer memorial público de la ciudad de Nueva York consagrado a una mujer. En 1930, el jardín fue rediseñado bajo la dirección de Robert Moses.
Era un pozo de traficantes, cuando la ciudad en 1989 decidió renovarlo. El nuevo Bryant Park fue reinaugurado en 1992, teniendo un éxito instantáneo. El parque constituyó un lugar de distensión y descanso para los neoyorquinos.
En 2002 el Bryant Park fue el primer wireless park de la ciudad, permitiendo el acceso libre a Internet por Wi-Fi. A comienzos de abril de 2006 tuvo lugar la reapertura de los baños públicos del Bryant Park (Edificio classificado de más de 95 años).

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