“CENTRAL PARK: The People’s Place”— A Loving Portrait

“CENTRAL PARK: The People’s Place”

A Loving Portrait

Amos Lassen

Central Park is often referred to as New York’s collective backyard. It is the first truly public park and Martin L. Birnbaum paints a lovely tribute portrait to the green space among the cement towers that surround it. The film is “a biographyof a living place that continues to evolve as the city changes”. The documentary takes us to its creation as the first truly public park, its psychological and sociological significance, artistic design, and role as an urban oasis as the world becomes increasingly aware of the importance of green spaces.

We see nature’s seasonal changes with beautiful photography. Central Park is home to birdwatchers, sunbathers, children and their playtimes, musicians giving impromptu concerts and big events like Shakespeare in the Park and the New York City Marathon. It is safe to say that the name Central Park is a reflection of its centrality to the life of the city.

I remember my first trip to New York sometime back in the 1950s and my parents made sure that one of the places we went was to Central Park. It was important that we see the greenery in the city and not take it for granted as it is in New Orleans where I am originally from and where there are many green parks all year long. We see here Central Park’s democratic birth and diversity of people, activities, history, landscapes and values.  We also see the role Central Park plays in the lives of New Yorkers both as a communal backyard and as being of psycho-sociological importance as a green spot in an urban environment. We see and hear interviews with a cross-section of people who use the Park daily to those who are professionally connected to the park like Betsy Barlow Rogers, Art Historian and Founder, Central Park Conservancy; Morrison H. Heckscher, Lawrence A. Fleischman Chairman of the American Wing, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Francis Morrone, Historian/Writer; Edward Hallowell, MD Child & Adult Psychiatrist; and Douglas Blonsky, President & CEO, Central Park Conservancy. We also hear from the gardeners, the soil scientists and the volunteers.

With its 843 acres of green space, Central Park plays a unique role in the city and is a perfect place for picnics, strolling, dog-walking, outdoor concerts, Shakespeare under the stars, and a place for quiet contemplation, outdoor painting, and performing all kinds of music. Central Park has appeared in many famous movies and during the annual New York City Marathon, it represents the spirit of New York around the world. Many will be surprised to hear the unlikely story of Central Park’s creation and how it became the prototype for other parks in the U.S.

The idea for this film began years ago when Director Martin L. Birnbaum began photographing its seasons over the years thus creating a visual poem.  As he met other park lovers, the film grew into a 90-minute documentary with beautiful cinematography and original music. “Central Park: The People’s Place” looks art the collective and individual experiences of Central Park as it rejoices in the diversity and splendor of an American experiment in social democracy.

Douglas Blonsky, President & CEO, Central Park Conservancy, describes the evolving story of the park and the experiences it offers, “It is a series of these travels through the park, all these wonderful little destinations, that’s what we want to highlight.”

Interviews with: Morrison H. Heckscher, Lawrence A. Fleischman Chairman of the American Wing, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Francis Morrone, Historian/Writer; Edward Hallowell, MD Child & Adult Psychiatrist; and other experts, provide a range of perspectives on the social and historical sides of the park’s story.

 

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