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Central Park Conservancy Reconstruction of the Reservoir East Landscape

WHEREAS, The Central Park Conservancy has presented to Community Board Five a detailed informational overview of their proposed reconstruction of the Reservoir East Landscape; and

WHEREAS, This project is part of the Conservancy's effort to restore the east side landscapes of Central Park stretching from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Harlem Meer, rehabilitating elements of both Olmsted and Vaux's original design as well as landscape architect Samuel Parsons Jr.'s improvements of 1903-1911, with a focus on establishing a continuous park experience; and

WHEREAS, The project site consists of the landscape on either side of the East Drive from 86th to 96th Street, including the vegetated slope between the roadway and the bridle path on the west side of the drive, and the pedestrian path and marginal landscape between the roadway and perimeter wall on the east side; and

WHEREAS, The Reservoir East landscape has not been comprehensively restored since the early twentieth century, with original design features having greatly diminished over time; and

WHEREAS, This project has the following stated design goals:

1.      To minimize the urban character of the drive through a comprehensive planting designed to create a sense of continuity and enclosure, reestablishing the country road quality of the original design and evoking the horticultural character of Parsons' "Rhododendron Mile" of 1908;

2.      To improve the pedestrian experience by addressing aging pavements and inadequate drainage infrastructure, and by reinforcing the separation between the drive and pedestrian path through the addition of plantings and, where possible, changes in grade;

3.      To improve storm water management and growing conditions that will be used in combination with soil amendment and updated irrigation infrastructure to ensure that the horticultural improvements are sustained while using potable water as efficiently as possible; and

WHEREAS, The proposed restoration and rehabilitation work includes:

1.      Reconstructing the pedestrian path with new porous asphalt paving, new tree wells with granite curbs, drainage infrastructure, pipe rail fence, and new site furnishings, and raising it to an elevation slightly above the roadway by increasing the slope of the marginal landscape between it and the roadway, as per its original design;

2.      Replacing the granite block margin between the pedestrian path and the drive with a planting bed containing evergreen groundcover punctuated with low shrub masses; Planting new canopy trees in margin where large gaps exist to reestablish the consistent canopy of the original sycamore maples; and replacing aging trees with new trees according to a long-term plan;

3.      Installing structural soil mix to enlarge the root zone of new plantings;

4.      Removing invasive species and vegetation in poor condition from the slope between the pedestrian path and perimeter wall; Improving soils with addition of organic matter; Adding fill where possible to bring slope up closer to top of wall, increasing the sense of separation from the city and improving the planting conditions; Adding plantings to provide shade, fill gaps, and obscure views of Fifth Avenue;

5.      Recreating a sense of Parsons' "Rhododendron Mile" in the area between the drive and bridle trail with new plantings of rhododendrons, azaleas and groundcover in undulating drifts; Planting new canopy trees closer to the drive to fill gaps, provide shade, and restore the historic "country road" character of the landscape;

6.      Installing additional irrigation infrastructure to serve areas between bridle trail and drive and between drive and perimeter wall; and

WHEREAS, The budget for this project is projected at roughly $2.5 million, to be funded by the Conservancy and the City; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five supports the proposed reconstruction and restoration work; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That Community Board Five recommends approval of Central Park Conservancy's proposal for the reconstruction of the Reservoir East Landscape.

The above resolution passed by a vote of 37 in favor; 0 opposed; 1 abstaining.

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