Wandering Prospect Park
As part of my planned Saturday wanderings in Brooklyn, I decided to take a quick look into Prospect Park. It turns out to be far more of a look than planned. I essentially walked the entire perimeter of the park. It’s a big park and I got pretty tired during the walk.
I reached the park after going through Park Slope, which is just to the immediate west of Prospect Park. I think I was on 9th Street and I did enter at the Lafayette entrance. I don’t know if that’s the actual name, but there’s a dedication to him at the entrance.
The area just inside the entrance was set up for a big birthday party for a little kid. Happy Birthday kid…whoever you are.
Frederick Law Olmstead was the primary architect of both Central Park and Prospect Park. They are very different, but they both share one feature that even Famous Ankles can notice: complexity and diversity of the areas. Neither park can be described simply. You can’t take in the parks at a glance or even with a dozen different perspectives. They are designed to have distinct areas, each with its own identity and, usually, a distinctive name. In Central Park, you’ve got such places as the Great Lawn, the Sheep Meadow, the Ramble, and Poets’ Walk. Prospect Park has lots of names, but they don’t strike my ear as familiar as those in Central Park (whose places I had heard of before moving to NYC). That doesn’t make them any less attractive.
The most immediate difference I saw between Central Park and Prospect Park is the lack of fences in Prospect Park. Central Park has a lot of fenced-off areas; or at least areas that are fenced off at various times during the year. I wandered for a while in Prospect Park before I saw my first fenced-in area. It’s an equestrian area where two women were taking horse riding lessons. There were also two instructors, one of whom seemed to enjoy yelling at one of the riders. It wasn’t English…but in NYC it can be anything.
I continued walking and ran into Prospect Park Lake at the far south tip of the park.
It looks like Goose Heaven to me.
And that leads to a second difference between Prospect Park and Central Park: wilderness areas. As beautiful as Central Park is, there’s very little unplanned space in it. At times, it seems that every blade of grass is planned. Central Park has an area called “The Ramble” (an old favorite of mine) which is relatively “wild”. But even it is very well planned out. In contrast, Prospect Park has lots and lots of “wild” areas. (I saw an interview where a Park employee said they had the last true forest in NYC.)
Okay, the last seems pretty planned, but it wouldn’t look that way in Central Park.
The biggest difference, at least for me, is really the people. On a weekend like this one, Central Park is usually much more crowded. There are a lot of runners/bikers in the streets in both places, but I don’t think Prospect Park had more than a relatively small fraction of that population in Central Park. I did note that the hilliness of Prospect Park made some of the bikers and rollerbladers go a lot faster than anyone I’ve seen in Central Park.
But, both parks were done by Olmstead and there are lots of similarities. I’ve mentioned the “sections” that both parks consist of. They both also have a number of tunnels in the walking areas.
They both have “boathouses”. In Prospect Park, it’s near the Audubon Center. Central Park’s boats are individualized (you rent them and paddle yourself). What I saw in Prospect Park included a sort of micro-cruise ship. Here’s that boat coming under an overpass (unique to Prospect Park, too).
It’s tiny, but it is powered by something other than oars.
Okay, but there’s one thing that Prospect Park has that Central Park doesn’t: the Long Meadow. Stretching from Prospect Park Lake in the south to the northern tip, the Long Meadow is a grassy open area several hundred yards wide and who knows how long. It meanders all over the place and is a combination Sheep Meadow and Great Lawn and beyond. In Central Park’s Sheep Meadow, people often just cluster to sunbathe. In the Great Lawn, they play organized sports (reserved times and everything). In Prospect Park’s Long Meadow, they do both and anything else they feel like. It’s nearly perfect. I can hardly say enough in its favor.
The last picture is from near the northern tip of Prospect Park. At that point, you enter back into Park Slope. That area is Grand Army Plaza (the subject of another post).