A beautiful, six-mile, tree-lined perimeter rings Central Park. Characterized by its hexagonal asphalt pavers and granite blocks laid out in intricate patterns, the perimeter was first paved in the 1930s and 1940s—and most of it hasn’t been restored since.
ABOUT THE PERIMETER
The perimeter of Central Park was conceived by its designers, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, as a tree-lined promenade.
A double row of elms, ultimately intended to form a continuous shaded walk around the entire perimeter of the Park, was first planted along Fifth Avenue south of 86th Street and along the length of Central Park South in the 1860s. The remainder of Fifth Avenue and Central Park West were planted in the 1880s and ’90s, and the existing, characteristic paving pattern of the Park perimeter—a walkway of hexagonal asphalt pavers flanked by granite block margins in which the trees and benches are located—was established in the 1930s and ’40s.
THE RESTORATION PROJECT
The paved perimeter has seen considerable wear and tear over the course of nearly 100 years. Over time, pavements have settled and deteriorated, and areas of the perimeter are now uneven and prone to drainage problems.
To restore the perimeter, the Conservancy is reconstructing existing pavements in multiple locations. This restoration is occurring in phases, and we are prioritizing and advancing the work based on an assessment of the existing conditions throughout the entirety of the perimeter. Each phase of our comprehensive reconstruction includes:
- replacing the central walkway’s hexagonal pavers,
- resetting the granite block around the trees,
- replacing existing pavements at bus stops with accessible granite block pavers,
- reconstructing existing curbs and pedestrian ramps,
- replacing existing benches in their original pattern,
- planting new trees where necessary, and
- closing tree pits where tree plantings are not appropriate.
Crucially, this work has been planned to ensure that the existing perimeter trees are not damaged. In keeping with the Park’s history, we will plant oak trees along the west side and elms on the east side as necessary.
Between late September and mid-November 2022, the Conservancy closed empty tree pits and planted new trees around the perimeter in locations that are not otherwise being comprehensively reconstructed.
The pavement restoration is happening in phases: Work on Fifth Avenue between 60th and 65th Streets and between 84th and 90th Streets has been completed, as has work on Central Park West between 60th and 62nd Streets and between 86th and 90th Streets.
In early 2023, we are restoring the Fifth Avenue perimeter between 90th and 96th Streets.
Dene Slope RestorationOur work on the Dene Slope included establishing a meadow of native grasses and wildflowers over several planting seasons, and creating a rustic trail and seating for visitors that contain sweeping new views across the meadow.
Billy Johnson Playground RenovationOur renovation of Billy Johnson Playground preserved and reinforced the rustic character of the playground while increasing the play value and improving accessibility.
Grand Army Plaza ReconstructionOur work in the northern end of Grand Army Plaza improved the condition of one of the City’s most prominent public spaces. We upgraded infrastructure, increased accessibility, planted new trees, and performed conservation work on the plaza’s iconic General William Tecumseh Sherman monument.
Restoration of the Hallett Nature Sanctuary
Our work in the Hallett Nature Sanctuary consisted of restoring the landscape, expanding trails, and constructing rustic features, including a hand-crafted wooden gate at the sanctuary’s entrance. These improvements have resulted in a healthier landscape and more diverse wildlife habitat, while providing a scenic and meditative experience to the public.