Photography by: Fumihiko Sugino
Central Park is considered the “Crown Jewel”of New York City. Its sprawling 40acres are an oasis for New York City residents and visitors to enjoy. With nearly 40million entering the park yearly, it is by far and wide the busiest urban park in the world. Neighboring communities on all four sides, this autonomous area for nature is a reprieve for New Yorkers from the city grid.
Neighborhoods surrounding the park share a symbiotic relationship with Central Park, with residents loving the park as one of the city’s most sought after amenities, and the park being tended to by residents with the care of a suburbanite to their front lawn.Tens-of-thousands of New Yorkers identify the park’s edge as “home.”
The park is lined by apartments and condominiums, leading the area to retain a largely residential character that has an identity of its own, despite transcending the City’s traditional neighborhood definitions.Until 2018, the Central Park region remained largely voiceless in community matters, given the lack of unity and the obvious geographic challenges of living on opposite sides of the park. This was recognized by Michael Fischer, a Central Park South resident, who then hatched a plan to bring community to this region of the City. It was then that the Central Park Civic Association was formed.“
Given that some of our members live on the Upper West Side, while others reside on the Upper East Side, as well as near me,in Midtown, it was often overlooked that we all shared one, quite large, neighbor in Central Park,” said Fischer. “While life along the park side is the most wonderful aspect that the city has to offer, our neighborhood is not devoid of challenges, and our residents are not without ideas on how we could improve this region for the better,” he continued. Fischer then formed the organization, with community buy-in.
Dozens became hundreds, and continued growing, as interest in the organization and its cause grew. Today, they are proud to boast a growing membership, who share a mutual interest in keeping the area surrounding the park beautiful, safe, accommodating, prosperous, and an “all-around great place to live,” says the group’s founder. Almost immediately, the Central Park Civic Association emerged as an outspoken, citywide leader on the issues facing the Manhattan Borough and the City at-large.
Alongside other community groups, one of the first, and perhaps most notable, endeavors undertaken by the group was joining the opposition to the conversion of the Park Savoy Hotel to become a homeless shelter. “The Park Savoy Hotel, located just one block from Central Park South, was chosen as a site for one of the City’s controversial homeless hotels.When the community learned about this, our first reaction was one of neighborly concern: what would this do for the safety in our community, when would our new neighbors be moving in, ”says Fischer. “These are the same concerns that anyone living next to a homeless shelter would feel,but we understood the needs to help those who are underserved.”