The Park and the People: A History of Central Park

Roy Rosenzweig, Author, Elizabeth Blackmar, With
Roy Rosenzweig, Author, Elizabeth Blackmar, With Cornell University Press $63.95 (623p) ISBN 978-0-8014-2516-5
Reviewed on: 09/28/1992
Release date: 10/01/1992
In this prodigiously researched, eloquent work, history professors Rosenzweig (George Mason University) and Blackmar (Columbia) have written an outstanding study of the evolution of Manhattan's Central Park, from its early days as a carriage promenade for the rich to its development as a haven from urban stress for all classes of people. Construction of the park, which was conceived by the wealthy both as a boon to the public and as a means to enhance real estate values, began in 1856. The project displaced 1600 park site residents, including Seneca, an African American community; exploited the laborers who cleared the land; and was rife with disputes between Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the architects who won the design competition. Although the emphasis is on the first 50 years of the park's development, Robert Moses's reign as park commissioner from 1934 to 1960 is adequately covered, as is the current controversial dependence on the private sector to finance this beautiful, democratic public space. Illustrated. (Oct.)