I have written previously about the value of a view of nature – how our animal selves need to connect to plants or animals even within New York City’s urban jungle. While not NYC’s largest park (that would be Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx), Central Park is an amazingly large green space within the relatively small island of Manhattan. The increase in value a view of Central Park, or even proximity to it without a view, delivers to an apartment in New York City is well established. Most tourists only see, or even think about, the south end of the park, closest to Midtown, However, the northern third of the park is equally beautiful, and the price of an apartment on Central Park North (110th Street) is a fraction of that on Central Park South (59th Street). I enjoy taking unplanned walks around the city (dérives) and decided to walk along the edge of Central Park, starting on Central Park West and 86th Street, crossing the top of the park at Central Park North, and then heading south along Fifth Avenue, stopping at 86th Street.
At the corner of Central Park West and 86th Street, you stand flanked by Central Park to the east, facing a row of Central Park West’s grand prewar apartment buildings to the west. Many of the east-facing apartments in these buildings in the upper 80’s/low 90’s have wonderful views of the Jacqueline Onassis reservoir (living on Fifth Avenue, she was well known for using the jogging path around the reservoir). Continuing north, large outcroppings of ice age Manhattan schist can be seen, forming a natural cliff at the edge of the park. I was struck along this section by the Eldorado, the most northern of the several “twin towered” buildings along CPW (the San Remo, the Majestic, and the Century being farther south).
When you walk to the Northwest corner of CPW and 110th Street (which is called Central Park North for obvious reasons between Central Park West and Fifth Avenue), a statue of Frederick Douglass can be seen, gazing up the Avenue bearing his name. His is a fairly new statue, only being revealed in 2010. Turning east on Central Park North, it is clear that this section of park-facing apartments is a mixture of older tenement-styled buildings, and a few spectacular new development properties. It seem that this is only the beginning of the development of this stretch of real estate, with the potential for views south encompassing the entire length of Central Park as well as the Manhattan skyline. I have seen the spectacular view that apartments facing north on Central Park South have, but so far can only imagine how amazing those same views are from the north with the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and new icons like One57 and 432 Park rising up behind the park.
Within the north section of Central Park, beautiful and serene Harlem Meer (“meer” is simply a “lake” in Dutch, New York City’s first language) anchors the recreational possibilities for this area. Catch-and-release fishing are available (yes, people can actually fish in Central Park), and Lasker Rink provides ice skating in the winter but is transformed into a swimming pool in the summer. There is a Harlem Meer performance festival every summer, well worth visiting regardless of where you live in the city.
At the Northeast corner of Central Park North and Fifth Avenue, a statue of Duke Ellington (complete with piano) honors his importance in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s. A committee led by cabaret singer Bobby Short raised the money for this statue in the 1980’s. Turning onto Fifth and heading south, One Museum Mile, a new residential development designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects signals the change to what some call “Upper Carnegie Hill.” Passing the lush and elegant Conservancy Gardens, the Carnegie Mansion (home to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum), and the Guggenheim, Fifth Avenue slowly evolves into the street we imagine, stately apartment buildings side-by-side facing the park.
What I have learned from exploring Central Park and the streets facing it is that the Park is truly a kind of miracle – such an oasis of multi-layered nature surrounded by our great city. Living in close proximity to the park is a gift, and one with a price. However, the price is lessened on the north section of the park, and offers great value for those looking to live near this green jewel within the island of Manhattan.