Human Interest

New York’s Central Park marks 60th anniversary as national monument

By Javier Otazu

New York, May 23 (EFE).- The world’s most famous park thanks to the film industry on Tuesday marked its 60th anniversary as a national monument.

New York’s Central Park, which has existed since 1876, was named an “Historic Landmark” 60 years ago today, a designation that guarantees its protection over the coming centuries.

It’s almost a miracle that in the middle of Manhattan, one of the most expensive real estate areas and one of the most densely populated zones on Earth, these 341 hectares (some 850 acres) have been left undeveloped as the Big Apple’s “green lung.”

So linked is the park’s image with moviemaking that virtually everyone has seen the colorful autumn leaves fall from some of its 18,000 trees, some of the estimated 2,500 squirrels who scamper around or the local lake freeze over each winter.

Parks that change with the seasons exist all over the planet, but Central Park is unique in at least one way: Where else can you find an Egyptian obelisk 3,500 years old, a gay wedding, a canine birthday party and tireless imitators of John Lennon making music?

Quintessential New York filmmaker Woody Allen has always joked about his aversion to “the countryside,” but he has kept an almost matrimonial relationship with Central Park, where he has set many scenes from such films as “Manhattan,” “Hannah and Her Sisters” and “Bullets Over Broadway.”

But Allen hasn’t discovered anything new. The park’s relationship with film began in 1908 and since then there have been more than 200 movies shot in the park, so many that there’s a company that provides paid tours of “iconic movie locations in Central Park.”

For instance, who doesn’t remember a sweat-soaked Dustin Hoffman running around the park’s lake in “Marathon Man”? Or the endless walks among the trees by the couple in “When Harry Met Sally”? Or the animated animals of “Madagascar” escaping from and returning to the Central Park Zoo?

Some of New York’s biggest structural attractions are the skyscraping apartment buildings with views over Central Park, and it’s not by chance that surrounding the park on all four sides are buildings that offer their tenants grand panoramas like those most people have seen only in the movies.

Around the southern portion of the park are concentrated perhaps the tallest of New York’s ultraluxurious skyscrapers, including the Central Park Tower (432 meters, or 1,417 feet) and 432 Park Avenue (426 meters, 1,397 feet), all of them the so-called “pencil skyscrapers” for their slender structures that make them an engineering challenge.

Those who gossip say that a good portion of the apartments in these skyscrapers on New York’s “Golden Mile” – and there are several more such strips both in Manhattan and Brooklyn – are empty for two reasons. First, because they’re uncomfortable due to their extreme exposure to the wind and their complex elevator systems, and secondly because they constitute, as if they were works of art and more than anything else, perfect vehicles for financial speculation.

In any case, they are possibly the world’s most photogenic buildings. From the northern shore of the park’s big lake, the Jackie Kennedy Reservoir, passersby and tourists stop every day to view the calm waters reflecting the silhouettes of the skyscrapers that create one of New York’s – and the world’s – best-known skylines.

In an elitist city like New York, where inequalities are ever-present and brutal, Central Park is one of the most democratic spaces. Anyone can use it to have a picnic with friends, walk their dog, ride bicycles, go birdwatching or create a collection of marriage photos.

On any Sunday, the park fills up with artists, trios or quartets of musicians, mimes, actors or other performers, huge open-air yoga or stretching classes and family groups out to enjoy a stroll around the lake.

Although it may be hard to believe, smoking is prohibited throughout the park, but marijuana users fail to observe that rule every day. Alcohol consumption is also prohibited, but if you keep your bottled drink wrapped in a brown paper bag, basically nothing will happen.

It’s also prohibited to feed the animals in the park, but who can resist giving a few peanuts to the squirrels or crumbs of bread to the fish and turtles?

EFE jo/bp

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