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DVD Review: Treasures of New York City Parks

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New York City is a huge, bustling metropolis with over 8 million people. Most of the time when those of us outside New York see the city depicted on television or in the movies, it is not green space that we see.

Yet, New York has a remarkable park system, with one major park in each of the five boroughs. Treasures of New York City Parks documents each of these parks, delving into the history of how they were created and important features of each.

The parks covered are Central Park in Manhattan (probably the one non-New Yorkers are most familiar with), Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Flushing Meadows/Corona Park in Queens, and the Greenbelt on Staten Island.

Central Park was created by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, literally sculpted to be the centerpiece of Manhattan. Despite its’ popularity and beauty, it has had a checkered past, falling into disrepair in the 1930s, only to be saved by New York Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia and parks commissioner Robert Moses. In the 60s and 70s it became a dangerous place to be and began to be in desperate need of saving again, and it was rescued by the non-profit Central Park Conservancy. Today, it is a popular spot for New Yorkers and visitors alike.

The other parks have stories that are equally interesting. Pelham Park is the site of a popular beach. Beachfront property there was once used by Democrat Jimmy Walker as rewards for his Tammany Hall cronies, until commissioner Robert Moses stopped the practice by making radical changes to the park’s coastline.

Flushing Meadows/Corona Park was the site of the World’s Fair in 1964 and one can still see remnants from the fair in the park. The United Nations had temporary headquarters there during the formation of the state of Israel.

Prospect Park is less notable in this documentary, but it does get its share of mention before the story moves on to the Greenbelt, memorable especially for being saved by activists when Moses almost destroyed it to create the Richmond Parkway. The Parkway would have provided relief from traffic snarls, but there would have been no park then for Staten Island.

There is a lot of history here, and while of course there is also plenty of promotion for New York, and that’s okay. The show is watchable and informative and an enjoyable bit of armchair travel for non-New Yorkers, too. Look for it on PBS stations throughout September.

Photo Credit: pbs.org

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, and Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.
  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Having grown up here, I’ve always felt fortunate for the public parks. There are also many more not mentioned, and many of them are little gems. There are also the beaches – you can surf in NYC. We are very lucky indeed.

  • http://www.rhettaakamatsu.com Rhetta Akamatsu

    Vic, I never realized New York had beaches and I never imagined surfing there! I really hope to visit sometime soon, and I definitely want to see as many of the parks as I can when I do.

  • Zingzing

    Prospect park was designed by the same guys who did central park, and they considered it their masterpiece. I’m surprised it got the short shrift.

  • http://www.rhettaakamatsu.com Rhetta Akamatsu

    I wouldn’t say it got short shrift exactly. I think it may just be that it came after three other parks and it just seemed that way to me.