December 12, 2011 – Public Design Commission
Statement of the Historic Districts Council
Design Commission Public Hearing
Re: Reconstruction of the North Harlem Meer Landscape, Shoreline, and Playground
The Historic Districts Council is the citywide non-profit advocate for New York City’s designated historic districts and neighborhoods meriting preservation.
HDC is happy to see attention being turned to the northern most part of Central Park. Olmstead and Vaux designed their gem with the idea that the southern half of the park, with memorable spaces like Betheseda Terrace and the Mall, would be more formal while the northern section was to be more rural and rugged. Aspects of this project such as the softening of the water’s edge and plantings of shrubbery will help return a more naturalistic tone.
Our main concern with the new playground is the area containing the play equipment. HDC finds the shape of the enclosures and the constricted route of the boardwalk to be too confining both from a use standpoint and an aesthetic one. Having to follow the walk from spot to spot would be more akin to walking down a hallway than to running about a great open space in Central Park. Visually, the formal creation of “play rooms” in tight, repeated circles would seem a pattern better suited for the south part of the park, not the more rustic north end. The strictly contained feeling could be toned down by lowering the proposed thirty-inch high stone walls, creating more openings within the walls and/or creating spaces that are less predictably and uniformly shaped.