Central Park is the heartland of Manhattan, 843 acres set aside for the recreation of New Yorkers and tourists. Although the park seems “natural”, its landscape and scenery are completely man-made, based on designs by Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.
Central Park has one of the lowest crime rates in the city. Nevertheless, is is unwise to wander in remote areas of the park or to visit the park at night alone except to attend scheduled events.
The first two digits on the metal plate attached to most park lampposts tell the approximate cross street.
In 1844 poet William Cullen Bryant began calling for a public park, observing that commerce was devouring great chunks of Manhattan and the population sweeping over the rest.
The land was desolate, covered with scrubby trees, rocky outcroppings, and occasional fields where squatters grazed pigs and goats. A garbage dump, a bone-boiling works, and a rope walk added their own atmosphere.
Socially the park was intended for the relief of working people, whose daily lives were often confined to tenements and sweatshops, as well as for the amusement of the wealthy, who could display their clothing, carriages, and horses along the tree –lined drives.
Even before its completion the park was a target for unwanted encroachments, beginning with a racing track for horses, which Olmsted blocked.
About 45 million people visit the park each year, which takes a toll on the landscape and facilities.
The Carousel, with its 58 beautiful horses, delights more than 250.000 riders every year, According to legend, the first park carousel (1870) was turned by a blind mule and a horse in the basement, who were trained to respond to one or two knocks on the floor over their heads.
The Reservoir occupies the midline of Central Park, from about 86th to 96th. The main entrance, at East 90th St, is through the Engineers’ Gate, familiarly known as the Runners’ gate, where runners enter the park during the New York Marathon.