As reported by Cristiana P.
In 1980, with the founding of the Central Park Conservancy, our City’s first Scenic Landmark–Central Park, designated in 1974–began a miraculous transformation.  Decades of neglect were slowly and carefully reversed and, after 30+ years, Central Park is the entrancing destination many of us know it to be today.

Cherry Hill concourse photographed in 1982, following restoration.
And the work continues!  The Central Park Conservancy and the Parks Department, the two bodies who administer the Park, regularly undertake park improvement projects.  But they are not alone in their vision to sensitively restore and preserve Central Park.  Advocates such as LANDMARK WEST! and our colleagues celebrate the Park not only for its English Romantics origins, but for the incredible changes it has experienced over the decades.  At times, administrators and preservation advocates don’t see eye to eye on “what’s best” for the Park today, for its users, and for the Park’s future.  The proposal to reconstruct the Cherry Hill concourse is a perfect example … and it happens to be an advocacy “win” as well!

Cherry Hill concourse today (May 2011).
The LPC at public hearing on Tuesday (May 3rd) unanimously disapproved the Central Park Conservancy’s proposal to reconstruct Cherry Hill concourse.  LW! stood strong on the issue of preserving Cherry Hill’s layered history; we illustrated it’s effective design and good condition; we spoke to the proposed design’s degradation of the space to a parking lot (read LW!’s statement here).  And the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) stood strong as well!

Said one commissioner: “There is no way I could support this”.  Another concurred, adding: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Cherry Hill

concourse, as designed and revitalized by landscape architect Philip N. Winslow in the 1980s, is beautiful, both in terms of aesthetics and performance.  It sets the stage, as many remarked at yesterday’s hearing, for pedestrians to take in the views of The Lake.  Cherry Hill as a “room” was an allusion heard more than once.  And in terms of managing the traffic of horse-drawn carriages and pedicabs alongside pedestrians and other park users, it successfully accommodates them all!
Brick pavers laid in a herringbone pattern at Cherry Hill.
Cherry Hill is no longer for livery boys and carriages, but for pedestrians and cyclists and park users of all kinds!  Cherry Hill has evolved over time and the historical layer added by Winslow in the 1980s continues to meet the needs of park users while harmonizing with the larger design history of Central Park.  The Commissioners saw the proposal as flat-out unnecessary.  Nothing in the documents provided (by the Conservancy or the public) indicated to them that there was a pressing need for this invasive work.  In fact, the Conservancy itself noted that the brick and granite were in reasonable shape!  The singular concession the LPC seemed open to was using a new resin bound aggregate paving system (never before tested in Central Park) as a replacement for the existing asphalt ring.  In that way, they might identify a new material for use in the park without seriously compromising this significant and well-used (and loved!) design.

The LPC will issue an Advisory Report to the Design Commission, which has final say.  But with an unfavorable report from the LPC, one hopes the Design Commission will think hard before they consider endorsing the project.

LW! isn’t done!  We’ll continue to bulk up on Cherry Hill knowledge and enhance our testimony for the Design Commission (date TBD).  And we don’t expect to be alone: We’ll continue to encourage the groups and individuals who’ve already spoken out on this issue: Historic Districts Council, Defenders of the UES Historic Districts, New York City Park Advocates, Friends of the UES Historic Districts, and more!  Stay tuned …

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