Bryant Park has been around for ages, first called Reservoir Square, around 1847 when the Croton Reservoir was there. Prior to that it was still wilderness, until 1823 when it was designated a potter's field, which it remained through 1840. It wasn't until the bodies were (probably!) moved to Wards Island that it became a public park. But let's flash way forward, to the 1970s, when the park became overrun by drug deals and prostitutes.

Courtesy of the BPC

Nicknamed "Needle Park" at the time (as were many parks in the city), it was considered a "no-go zone" by New Yorkers at the time. Part of the problem was Robert Moses's 1930 redesign, which made the park practically hidden to passerby, and thus the perfect hideout—in fact, in 1980 one of the Bryant Park Corporation founders told the NY Times, “It’s incredible, but it seems the park was designed for pushers.” Eventually, a new day was upon us, and according to The Internet:

From 1979 to 1983, a coordinated program of amenities, including a bookmarket, a flower market, cafes, landscape improvements, and entertainment activities, was initiated by a parks advocacy group called the Parks Council and immediately brought new life to the park—an effort continued over the succeeding years by The Bryant Park Restoration Corporation, which had been founded in 1980 by a group of prominent New Yorkers, including members of the Rockefeller family, to improve conditions in the park.

Here are some photos of the park in the early 1980s, a few years before the 1988 redesign, showing New Yorkers enjoying the piece of land.

Courtesy of the BPC

[via the BPC]