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Fixing Central Park’s Bumpy Sidewalks

The sidewalks surrounding Central Park were designed to help you escape.

Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the landscape architects behind the landmark, proposed in their 1858 planning document to plant a plush line of trees to separate the sidewalk and the road, “for the purpose of concealing the houses on the opposite side of the street, from the park, and to insure an umbrageous horizon line.”

Hexagonal asphalt tiles were placed and granite blocks were laid out in intricate herringbone and basket-weave patterns, forming the distinctive path that is now traversed by 42 million visitors every year.

  1. Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times
  2. Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times
  3. Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times
  4. Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times
  5. Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times
  6. Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times

The main purpose of the park’s outer sidewalk was to ensure that the second you step onto it, “you realize you’re not in the city anymore,” said Elizabeth W. Smith, the president and chief executive of the Central Park Conservancy.

But the pavement is now a bumpy path.

When the paved sidewalks were originally being installed in the 1930s, over 70 years after the first section of the park opened to the public, there were no electric scooters, Citi Bikes or people getting in and out of Ubers. Natural impediments have cropped up, too: Overgrown tree roots push up sections of the sidewalk, and pools of storm water collect in its dips. It’s a safety and accessibility nightmare.

Central Park’s perimeter sidewalks are not entirely level, with overgrown tree roots pushing up sections of the path.Credit…Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times
The Central Park Conservancy is maintaining historical paving patterns with the restoration.Credit…Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times

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