The north end of Central Park is finally getting some much-needed attention: the Central Park Conservancy announced a $110 million project today that will include a massive restoration of the area, including a brand new pool and rink to replace the aging Lasker Pool and skating rink, which was built in 1966.
According to the Conservancy, the project will focus on the area of the park around the Harlem Meer near 110th Street, and is the largest project that the group had undertaken since taking control of the park in the 1980s. The project will remove a concrete barrier between the Harlem Meer and the scenic Ravine to the south, so the watercourse that runs through the Ravine will flow overland into the Meer, instead of being diverted into a culvert behind the pool and rink building. There will also be a new boardwalk across a series of small islands at the Meer.
Here's more of what they have in store according to a release:
The path beside the watercourse will likewise be re-established, restoring the lost pedestrian connection and view through Huddlestone Arch toward the historic landscape. The project team’s design calls for the new recreational facility to be shifted to the eastern portion of the site rather than straddling the middle, with the pool house built into a slope in the topography. A landscaped berm will envelope the elongated oval pool and rink, fully integrating the facility into the setting.
In an interview with the Times, the Conservancy's president Elizabeth W. Smith said this project was designed to bring attention and care to a section of the park that is often overlooked in favor of the southern area, which neighbors Billionaire's Row. “The whole premise of the park is about equity,” she said. “It was to be a reprieve for every person to connect with nature, especially those who are least able to leave the city.”
Around 42 million people visit Central Park every year, and the Times notes that about 45 percent of the people who use the pool are locals who come from central and East Harlem and Manhattan Valley; about 26 percent come from Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, and another 16 percent live elsewhere in the city (the rest are tourists). Local council member Mark Levine called the plan “one of the most important park equity projects” in the city.
The City has allocated $50 million to the project, and the Conservancy has committed to raising $100 million and overseeing the design and construction. That means about $40 million will be put aside for maintenance and year-round programs that haven't been offered there before.
If everything runs on schedule, the new pool should be open by the spring of 2024, and the rink will be ready for skaters by that fall. Another notable date to keep in mind: the Trump Organization has had the concession to run the skating rink for 32 years, but their contract is up in 2021, the year construction is set to begin.