We will be rebuilding the pool and rink to better integrate into the landscape, offer new and enhanced outdoor activities, and increase access for communities around the north end of Central Park.
Our reimagining of the current pool and rink at the Harlem Meer will be the capstone project of the Conservancy’s 40-year campaign to restore Central Park. The new, fully accessible facility will be built in the spirit of Central Park’s original design and will provide:
- Year-round programming and expanded recreational opportunities at the Harlem Meer, with increased access to nature
- Enhanced swimming and skating, including a full-scale ice rink, an additional new skating experience on the Meer, a larger-than-Olympic-size pool, and a new outdoor spray pad
- A facility that serves a broader cross-section of Park users, with year-round access to restrooms and amenities and more community programming
- A boardwalk through freshwater marsh plantings at the edge of the water body, which will serve as an ice ribbon for skating in the winter, evoking the feeling of skating on the Meer
- Unhindered access across the north end of the Park — both by reconnecting the watercourse that runs through the Ravine so it flows freely into the Harlem Meer, and re-establishing the pedestrian path that once ran alongside it
The design has been led by the Central Park Conservancy and Susan T. Rodriguez Architecture & Design in collaboration with Mitchell Giurgola. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer, 2021.
A new landscape 40 years in the making
Central Park was designed as an idealized rural landscape, one that would provide New Yorkers an escape from the stresses of urban life. Park designers intended for visitors to move seamlessly through a diverse and beautiful sequence of naturalistic settings.
The massive Lasker Rink and Pool facility, completed in 1966, undermines this intention; not only does the building obstruct one of the most stunning views in the Park, but it also acts as a barrier — blocking the connection and community access between the Meer landscape and the rest of the Park, and disrupting the flow of water from the Loch to the Harlem Meer. Serious flaws in the engineering have plagued the existing facility since its construction. The Conservancy has committed to a complete redevelopment, replacing the entire facility with a new one that engages the surrounding landscape and supports a broader vision of park use.
Since the project was announced in the summer of 2018, the Central Park Conservancy engaged the community extensively through a series of workshops, meetings, and site tours. The purpose of these events was to involve a broad cross-section of the community that uses the Park.
The events were attended by general Park users who live around the Park’s north end, in neighborhoods such as Harlem, East Harlem, Manhattan Valley, and Morningside Heights, as well as regular lap swimmers and summer camps that use the pool; hockey coaches and parents who use the rink; and other specific user groups such as birders, runners, and bicyclists. In addition to these general community meetings, we met with and conducted site tours for community-based organizations.
We began the formal public review process in the fall of 2019 and received resolutions of support from all six of the community boards that surround Central Park. Links to their respective resolutions are below, as well as approval dates and votes tallies.
Full Board Approval
CB5 (Midtown) Landmarks
33 - 0 - 1
CB7 (Upper West Side) Parks & Environment
35 - 0 - 1 - 1
CB8 (Upper East Side) Parks & Waterfront
38 - 1 - 3 - 1
CB9 (Morningside/W. Harlem) Landmarks & Parks
37- 0 - 0
CB10 (Harlem) Parks Committee
30 - 2 - 0
CB11 (E. Harlem) Environment, Parks & Open Space
27 - 0 - 0
This project has received overwhelming support from all involved — from Park users to community boards and community-based organizations. The project also received overwhelmingly favorable support from members of the public representing the Park’s diverse community of users at hearings of the Landmarks Preservation Commission on December 10, 2019 (report), and the Public Design Commission on January 21, 2020 (video).
Public Design Commission Approval — March 30, 2020
The Central Park Conservancy is pleased the Public Design Commission took an important step toward restoring equity of access to the Park by unanimously approving the design for a significantly more integrated, accessible, and sustainable pool and rink facility.
Our public parks have a profound impact on the mental and physical health of our City, and this project will help expand the Park’s many benefits to an even larger community. The new design restores the landscape and impaired natural systems and provides a year-round outdoor center that will benefit the collective long-term health of Northern Manhattan residents, and all New Yorkers, who look to the Park as a place of sanctuary and well-being.
Q: How big will the facility be?
The new pool and rink will be larger than an Olympic-size pool. It will be the eighth-largest pool in New York City — making it one of a handful of City pools that can accommodate 50-meter lap swimming.
The new facility will take the shape of an elongated oval, at 280 feet by 120 feet. The new facility will also provide a full-size rink (200 feet by 85 feet), that can support tournaments and/or championships, and serve as a showcase venue for the community.
Q: Will the new design support existing uses like lap swimming, recreational skating, and hockey programming?
Yes. The new pool will accommodate the same uses as the existing pool, including recreational and lap swimming, and a regulation-size rink will support a robust skating and hockey program. In addition, the new facility will be open year-round to support community-focused programming during the spring and fall.
Q: How will hockey be accommodated at the new facility?
The new facility will provide a full-size rink for recreational skating, which will also be able to accommodate regulation hockey. The new rink can also be divided using deployable partitions to accommodate concurrent programming.
Q: Can the rink be divided for multiple uses, such as for various age groups that play hockey?
Deployable partitions can be used to divide the rink for multiple uses, such as for learn-to-skate programs, youth hockey for younger kids, figure skating, and recreational skating. While it will not be wide enough to accommodate two concurrent adult or older youth hockey practices or games, a regulation-size rink will be able to support tournaments and championships for youth and adult hockey leagues.
Q: What kinds of programming can we expect if the facility will now be open year-round?
Development of year-round programming will take place over the course of the three-year construction period, and in dialogue with the surrounding community. Some potential uses suggested to date for the pool basin between seasons include soccer, kickball, roller skating, tennis, and flex space for local schools. In addition, the building that supports the pool and skating rink will be open year-round to the public, and available to support public programs such as a launch location for tours and nature walks, school field trips, and more.
Q: When is construction supposed to start and how long is it supposed to take?
Construction is expected to begin in 2021 and be completed by 2024.
Q. What areas will be closed while the new facility is under construction?
The existing facility and nearby Harlem Meer shoreline will be closed during construction. The majority of the Meer landscape, the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, and the nearby playgrounds will all remain open.
Q: Why is the Central Park Conservancy overseeing the design of a public facility?
The Conservancy is a philanthropic organization founded in 1980 to restore Central Park in partnership with the City of New York. Since 1998, we have had an agreement with the Parks Department to operate and maintain the Park on behalf of the public. To date, we have raised and invested nearly $1 billion in the restoration and care of the Park and in helping other parks. The Conservancy has executed an extensive program of design and construction work throughout the Park’s 843 acres, grounded in a deep and abiding appreciation of the original vision and fundamental purpose as a reprieve from the City for all.
The existing facility — as a public pool in the summer and rink concession in the winter — is currently maintained by the Parks Department and the concessionaire. The Parks Department asked the Conservancy to partner on a project to address the failing facility and obsolete infrastructure, which would require massive investment even to keep it operational in the near-term; only a complete re-envisioning would resolve the inherent and systemic problems. In partnering with the City, the Conservancy committed to raising $100 million for the project, including a capital reserve for long-term maintenance.
Q: Are there other facilities that can be used during the construction period?
While the facility is under construction, visitors can use the nearby public pools in the summer and visit Wollman Rink for ice skating in winter. The Conservancy is working with the Parks Department to identify alterative accommodations for hockey.
Upper Manhattan is well served by several large public pools, such as Highbridge Pool (Washington Heights), Jackie Robinson (North Harlem), Marcus Garvey (Harlem), Frederick Douglass (West Harlem), Wagner (East Harlem), Thomas Jefferson (East Harlem), and John Jay (Upper East Side). Swimmers also have the option to use the Riverbank State Pool (West Harlem).
Key Links and Documents
Press Release: Central Park Conservancy Unveils Design to Build New Pool and Rink and Complete the Restoration of The Park’s North End Through $150 Million Project with NYC (link)
New York Times: $110 Million to Fix Central Park Section Far From ‘Billionaire’s Row’ (link)
Architect’s Newspaper: Long-neglected North End of Central Park will get a $150 million revamp (link)
Curbed: Central Park’s $150M revamp includes new pool and ice rink, landscape fixes (link)
amNY Metro: Central Park’s $150M redesign focuses on north end improvements (link)
Stay Connected and Informed
Want to learn more about the project or share your experiences in the north end of Central Park? Email us at [email protected], we’d love to hear from you! Please provide your name, address, and/or organizational affiliation, and we’ll include you on restoration updates and invitations to upcoming community meetings and project-related events.
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