The Conservancy is in the process of planning a much-needed renovation of the North Meadow Center, located on the north side of the 97th Street Transverse Road, at the southern edge of the North Meadow. The facility houses Park operations and program staff along with public restrooms, and includes outdoor recreation courts and operational space. The project is expected to be in construction starting in early 2023, and the work will last approximately 18 months. Every effort will be made to minimize disruption to use of the recreation courts during construction.
In the 1860s, as part of Central Park’s original construction, a complex of maintenance facilities for the operation of the Park was located on the Transverse Road at 86th Street, hidden from view from within the Park. Maintenance yards were added in 1900 (the 79th Street Yard) and 1910 (at the North Meadow). The North Meadow yard included a stone storage shed and stable, a refuse incinerator, and manure pits.
In 1935, under Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, outdoor recreation facilities were developed at the North Meadow, and the structure renovated to incorporate public restrooms and program space, in addition to storage for Park operations. It was at this time that the existing brick façade and windows were added on the south side of the building, and boiler rooms were added to make it a heated space. At the same time, borough-wide maintenance functions were consolidated in the 86th Street Shops, while maintenance functions for Central Park were squeezed into corners of comfort stations, concession buildings, and the Zoo.
In the early 1980s, a radio command post and night security operation was established in the North Meadow facility, along with headquarters for the newly created Urban Park Rangers and Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP). At the same time, the newly founded Central Park Conservancy began a decades-long effort to restore the deteriorated Park. As the Park was restored, the need for operations space to support its maintenance increased. In the late 1990s, the Conservancy renovated and expanded the 79th Street Yard as the Park’s primary operations facility. Presently, Park operations staff responsible for landscape management are distributed between two main facilities: the 79th Street Yard and the North Meadow facility; the latter also houses the staff that run our recreation programs at that facility.
The other significant development in the Conservancy’s maintenance operation has been the conversion of our Park operations fleet with an emphasis on smaller vehicles (replacing full-sized trucks and packers with utility carts) to move staff and materials and collect trash from within landscapes more efficiently and with less disruption of Park use. Beginning in the 2010s, the Conservancy began replacing retired gas carts with electric-powered carts, and in 2016 we converted the remainder of our utility carts to an entirely green fleet of electric carts.
- Renovate public facilities (recreation courts and restrooms)
- Renovate Park operations space
- Site work to support Park operations
Scope of Work
Outdoor Recreation Courts
The site includes 12 handball courts, three junior-level basketball courts, and one full-sized basketball court in an area that, until recently, was primarily used for vehicle parking except when cleared for tournaments/special events. An unmarked paved area adjacent to the handball courts, originally designated as horseshoe courts in the 1930s, is in poor condition. Pickleball, an increasingly popular activity in recent years, is often played on several of the handball courts.
The proposed improvements include refurbished handball walls and repainted handball courts, including some painted for alternative use for pickleball (in consultation with the community that uses the courts). The unmarked asphalt area will be repaved and painted with two pickleball courts. The basketball courts will be repaved and repainted. Benches and chess and checkers tables will be replaced, and new bike racks and drinking fountains with bottle fillers installed. The public restrooms and recreation staff space will be relocated from the distant corners of the building to the central breezeway, where they will be more readily accessible to all users of the recreation courts and the adjacent ballfields, as well as the multipurpose room.
The building houses Park-based staff (operations and public programs), public restrooms, and a general-purpose room used for staff and volunteer training and community meetings and events. A comprehensive restoration/renovation is required to address the condition of building envelope and interior and reconfigure the interior space to better support Park operations and public use.
Site Work for Park Operations
Currently the site includes Park operations activity—including electric cart charging and storage—on the west side of the building. Additionally, various utility structures and appurtenances are located on both the east and west sides of the building. The proposed improvements include formalization of space on either side of the building as charging stations for an expanded fleet of electric vehicles. Site and landscape improvements will serve to define, contain, and screen the operational activity.
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