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NYC Parks host 200th birthday events for designer Olmsted

NYC Parks host 200th birthday events for designer Olmsted

NEW YORK — Tuesday would have been the 200th birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of some of New York City’s most iconic parks, including Central Park. Nature lovers celebrated the milestone at some of his smaller landmarks.

Olmsted must have been smiling in spirit at the fanfare at Harlem’s beloved Morningside Park. Young children from the nearby nursery wore masks with the landscape architect’s face as they sang the birthday song to his mascot.

“He realized that the country was gradually urbanizing and was trying to figure out what was a way to make cities livable,” explained Dede Petri, president and CEO of the National Association for Olmsted Parks.

Petri joined the Friends of Morningside Park volunteer group for a celebratory history tour on Tuesday. Brad Taylor is the group’s president, and he mapped out the changes to the park from 1887 to today.

Morningside’s more famous cousin Central Park usually attracts all the attention, but its northern neighbors treasure their 30-acre escape.

“We’re so lucky in this park,” Taylor said. “We basically have an overlook almost every single block.”

Each of Olmsted’s designs carefully connects the cityscape to the landscape. In Riverside Park and Sakura Park Tuesday, a special concert could be heard for the visionary, ringing from the bells at Riverside Church.

“He was doing what he called as distant effects,” Petri said of his parks, “things that would only be appreciated or realized decades after he was done.”

While surrounding structures come and go, Olmsted’s parks withstand the test of time. The National Association for Olmsted Parks will host birthday events around the country all year long as part of the Olmsted 200 celebration.