Daily News from New York, New York on February 6, 1983 · 55
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Daily News from New York, New York · 55

New York, New York
Issue Date:
Sunday, February 6, 1983
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55 The greening off Central Park PARK FROM PAGE SEVEN Elizabeth Barlow corner of the park. Wollman Memorial Rink, where skaters like to twirl in the shadow of the tall buildings of Central Park South, is closed for renovation. The old portico of the dairy, knocked down by a truck, has been restored to Victorian elegance. The gray stone building, built in 1870, has been converted to a public park information center and hall for concerts, exhibitions, lectures and meetings. BETHESDA FOUNTAIN has been renovated, and Barlow said bids are about to be let for restoration of the terrace and landscape of this most formal centerpiece of the park. And everywhere, under the master plan, playgrounds and paths are to be repaired, monuments treated for the ravages of pollution and neglect, trees pruned and the weak ones culled to the consternation of some people who feel it is a sin to fell anything green in the city. New trees and underplan-tings will brighten the landscape. Last summer, said Barlow, 20 forestry students surveyed the park's trees with a girth over six inches all 24,000 of them checking the age, size and condition. And a smaller group of young horticulturistslaughingly called "veggies" in Barlow's office studied the park's undergrowth. Another team mapped the circulation of the thousands of park users and noted "desire lines" the paths carved into the grass by people who find the meandering paths too slow; in some cases, new paths will follow those "desire lines." The survey noted the condition of lampposts, walkways and benches. A USER SURVEY was conducted, and it was learned that 85 of the park's visitors are there for passive activities reading, relaxing, people-watching, while the rest are involved in more active pursuits, such as organized athletics and jogging. It determined that 18 of the park's users just want "to think," said Barlow. Old pictures, sketches and landscape plans were scrutinized. "It's very useful as we reconstruct the park," said Barlow. "The question is, are we going back in history, is this an exercise in preservation? I could say that this is the greatest preservation project in America today. "But it's something really much more than that. It is building the park for the future." To that end, she said, the original Olmsted plan was "so ingenious and so flexible and so serviceable, there are many parts of it that we should respect." The work is being done with Central Park's $4.5 million share of the Parks Department's annual $100 million budget, along with variable city capital Taking a break after a game of lawn tennis in Central Park (1890s photo). expenditures. The conservancy, which raises money from corporations, foundations and individuals, adds about $1 million a year to the expense budget, plus SI million to $2 million a year for capital expenditures. "I'D REALLY LIKE to know I could count on $5 million a year from the city and add to that another $2 million in private funds," Barlow said. "That will help us keep the restoration going." The project is open-ended, she said, as the park is "a living thing," but the basic work should be completed in about 10 years. With the park restored to its former glory, Barlow believes, New Yorkers will respect it more. "It's so clear," she said, "that when you get deterioration it just attracts vandalism. You could see it at Bethesda three or four years ago. You could see it deteriorating back in the early '70s, but it was still a nice area. By the late '70s the drug culture had moved in and it became quite unpleasant, very shabby." But with restoration, she believes, will come pride. Judith L. Heintz, a dedicated young landscape artist educated at Ohio State and Harvard University, is a full-time "restoration planner" for the Conservancy. She agreed with Barlow. "RE-EDUCATION of the public in the use of the park is a major thing," she said. "We don't want to exclude any activities, but we need some things in moderation. Once the public is operating from the same level of information that we are, we hope they'll understand and support the things we propose. "By making things beautiful and assuming a presence again, we hope to get a handle on vandalism," she said. "We need a lot of community input." Heintz recalled how phase one of the master plan was begun last June with 10 basic studies. She rattled them off with hardly a pause circulation, architecture, use, vegetation, soil studies, management and operations, security, wildlife, hydrology and archives the core of the master plan. "In the next month," she said, "we'll take the information and begin to put it together to figure what is causing the problems and find the solutions." And over it all, as Central Park is readied for the next century, will be the guiding spirit, the genius, of Frederick Law Olmsted.

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