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How Central Park Escaped Dozens of Misguided 'Improvements'

One of the first visitors to Central Park was famed newspaper editor Horace Greeley, who mistakenly thought he was seeing untouched Manhattan. Park architect Calvert Vaux recalled Greeley remarking that "they have let it alone a good deal more than I thought they would."

Greeley wasn't alone in his misapprehension. To this day, the park is so cleverly designed that some people don't realize it's an entirely built environment. This illusion of nature is the result not just of the vision of Vaux and his partner, Frederick Law Olmsted, but also due to the park's stewardship—and the public's willingness to speak out—over succeeding generations. Since Central Park's inception, there have been dozens of "proposed mutilations, intrusions and perversions" (to borrow a phrase from the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society) that would have made the park unrecognizable. Some proposals were mundane (like a store); some ridiculous (an airport); and some—such as Tavern on the Green—we don't even recognize as alterations any more.

There has rarely been a time when someone hasn't had a an ill-conceived idea for making Central Park better >>