The park is busy at weekends, and calmer on weekday afternoons; for some peace and quiet head to more secluded spots above 72nd Street such as the Harlem Meer, and the North Meadow north of 97th Street.
Central Park is a quintessential part of the Big Apple's character, and beloved by New Yorkers and visitors alike. Its 843 acres of lush lawns, beautiful lakes and winding paths are immortalised in popular culture the world over; the park is home to 25,000 trees and dozens of bird species, and frequented by joggers, musicians, actors and tourists, all of whom come for an escape to tranquil nature amid the urban chaos. Automobile traffic is banned on weekends, when the looping 'drives' are particularly popular with cyclists and inline skaters.
Indeed, the development of the park in the 1860s and 70s was envisioned as a great social leveller, allowing everyone in New York a beautiful forested oasis for leisure and relaxation. The wide range of sculptures - there are 29 throughout the park - attests to the varied background of the city's inhabitants: there is an equestrian statue of Simón Bolívar, celebrating his contributions to Latin America; the imposing King Jagiello monument memorialises king of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, Władysław II Jagiełło, who won the 1410 Battle of Grunwald; the Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is also commemorated, as are writers from Hans Christian Andersen to Shakespeare, and there's a huge bronze Alice in Wonderland next to the model boat pond Conservatory Water.
It's not always been so rosy. Almost immediately after its initial completion, the park began to fall into disrepair due to lack of use, and was only rescued in 1934 by the clean-up efforts of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. What is now the Great Lawn was at this point the wretched 'Hoover Village' shantytown, which the master urban planner Robert Moses removed; he also constructed playgrounds and sports pitches, aligning the park with the emerging desire for a place for sports recreation, rather than simply an idyllic retreat.
The 1960s and 70s saw the 'Events Era,' during which the park was used for rallies, demonstrations, festivals and happenings of all kinds, including the famous 'Love-ins' in protest against the Vietnam War; since 1962, the outdoor Delacorte Theater has played host to the free 'Shakespeare in the Park' summer festivals, which remain wildly popular to this day.The park is now meticulously managed by the Central Park Conservancy, who proudly keep it in perfect condition for all visitors to enjoy. The Conservancy also operate a variety of tours, highlighting different aspects of the park.
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