FIRST PHOTOGRAPHIC STUDY OF NEW YORK CITY’S PARKS SINCE 1930s ON VIEW AT MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK OCT. 9, 2009—MARCH 7, 2010
Exhibition to Feature Wall-Sized Photographic Prints, Providing Visitors With Immersive Experience of Parks Throughout Five Boroughs Joel Meyerowitz’s expansive study of New York City’s parks—throughout all five boroughs—will be on view at the Museum of the City of New York in an installation to include unusually large photographic prints, some as large as the gallery walls themselves; the images document the untamed and wild nature of the city’s cherished and hard-won open spaces, as well as bucolic and pastoral landscapes. Legacy: The Preservation of Wilderness in New York City Parks, which will be on view October 9, 2009 through March 7, 2010, is the result of a unique commission Meyerowitz received from the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation in 2006, and it constitutes the first photographic survey of the parks since the 1930s.
The first official New York City park was Bowling Green, a mere half-acre leased to a group of citizens by a Common Council at an annual rent of one peppercorn. The 1811 Manhattan grid plan designated a few more areas, such as Union Square, Tompkins Square, and Madison Square, as open spaces for downtown recreation, and the 1830s and ‘40s saw the creation of a handful of parks in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. The mid 19th century saw a major period of park expansion in the city, with the creation of Central Park, Prospect Parks, Van Cortlandt Park, and others. The New York Park Association, the city’s first open-space advocacy organization, spearheaded by John Mullaly in 1881, developed a system comprising six large parks and three parkways in the Bronx; one of these, Pelham Bay Park, is the largest in the city at 2,765.5 acres. When the New York Park Association vested these parks to the City of New York in 1888, the City’s green space quintupled. Beginning in the 1930s, Robert Moses focused on the recreational use of parkland with the addition of hundreds of playgrounds, baseball fields, tennis courts, skating rinks, and swimming pools, more than doubling the amount of park acreage in the five boroughs of New York City.
Today, there are approximately 29,000 acres of land under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department, of which 12,000 acres are wilderness areas consisting of woodlands, wetlands, and meadows. Hundreds of rare plant species and native creatures—for example, foxes, coyotes, deer, and even turkeys—have been sighted in city parks. In recent years, the Parks Department has created nature preserves out of vacant tracts, initiated reforestation programs, and played a proactive role in conservation and sustainability.