Sunday, July 11, 2010

Two New York Parks

Central Park and the way it has been managed—through a nonprofit conservancy under contract with the city—has served as a model for how we would like to see the American River Parkway managed, and this story from the New York Times comparing two signature New York Parks, Central and Prospect, is insightful.

An excerpt.

“From: Vaux Populi
To: A Little Bit Country
Subject: Upper Case Thought

I admit I was surprised when the idea of a friendly joust over the respective merits of Central Park and Prospect Park was first proposed to us. It had never occurred to me that anyone seriously considered the two parks comparable. I have nothing against Prospect Park. I have actually been to Prospect Park. It is, as I recall, in Brooklyn. I am sure that if I found myself near it again and had nothing better to do, I would be happy to watch the grass grow, or whatever it is people do there. But seriously. I look forward to sharing with you why Central Park is not only the most visited, most famous, most beloved, but also — wait, I’m going to need the caps lock button for this — THE GREATEST URBAN PARK ON EARTH.

“From: A Little Bit Country
To: Vaux Populi
Subject: Blushing Horses

I’m sure Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the architects of both these parks, would be surprised by your surprise, as Prospect was their clear favorite. It’s widely understood among landscape architects that Central Park was a mere practice run, and Prospect Park the true masterpiece — like God making man before woman.

I didn’t know Manhattanites actually used Central Park. It’s a wonder you’re even able to, since it’s so entirely overrun by tourists. Though I did once ford a treacherous river of Lycra-clad bikers to find a small flat spot of grass where Upper East Siders sardine together in search of the perfect tan. Ah, park as annex to gym and tanning salon! Inspired!

Consider, by way of contrast, our Long Meadow: the pastoral ideal at its finest, with undulating hills dotted with ancient trees, among which a diverse array of humanity frolics with happy abandon. The difference between our parks is that mine is full of New Yorkers in their own gorgeous backyard, and yours is full of suburbanites snapping pictures out of pedicabs.

I’ve got nothing against tourists. I just don’t want to be around a lot of them all at once, especially when I’m trying to relax. But they do have the darnedest accoutrements — their horse carriages, for example. Everyone on them seems so embarrassed. Even the horses are mortified.”