It was a cold and gray day, but still worth it to walk around in Central Park. Central Park is a monument to lots of things. From the original smart idea devote a big area of the middle of the city to a park, the wonderful “planned spontaneity” of the design by Frederick Law Olmsted, to the extraordinary voluntary management by the Central Park Conservancy, Central Park has been an example.
It really was not that cold, but I was unprepared for the cold there was. I just didn’t have warm clothes to bring from Brazil, so I faced the 25 degrees and bitter wind with a running windbreaker and a sweatshirt underneath. I joke that it was the same temperature in Brasília as New York, both 25 degrees, but one Celsius and one Fahrenheit. I bought a hat for $5, which at least kept my bald head warm.
Central Park is familiar, like going home to a place you never lived because of the frequent use of the place as a setting for movies and TV. It is also familiar because of the design. Lots of places copied Olmstead’s designs and the man himself actually designed some Milwaukee parks. It was the default design of urban parks for generations.
The thing that interested me most today was the role of the Central Park Conservancy. Central Park was not always as pleasant as it is today. The NYC was unwilling or unable to maintain it to a high enough standard. NYC contracts with the Conservancy, which is a non-profit private group, to run maintain the park, but most of the money to do the needed operations is raised privately by the conservancy. It is a successful example of public-private-partnership and a good lesson that collective action need not be organized by a government authority. People working in voluntary association can do wonders given the chance.
Public need not mean run by government. The public includes more than that. The word has developed a somewhat pejorative connotation. Think “public” restroom and what do you think? It need not be this way. Central Park is a public park in every important sense. It is run by “the public” but by the public that cares the most.
My pictures show Central Park this morning. The lower picture is a newly planted Princeton elm. They are resistant to the Dutch elm disease and yet have the nice shape.