East Coast Shoot, Day 7: our very own Frederick Law Olmsted
June 28, 2009
Sara Cedar Miller, historian and photographer for the Central Park Conservancy, and author of the beautiful books Central Park: An American Masterpiece and Seeing Central Park once candidly called Doug Blonsky the Frederick Law Olmsted of today.
Blonsky is president of the Central Park Conservancy, as well as Chief of Operations of Central Park, which means he’s not only the leader of the organization that raises 85% of the park’s $27 million annual budget, but he manages a staff of over 250, and about 3,000 volunteers. Olmsted, in addition to creating the spectacular design for the park, was also superintendent, and later architect-in-chief of the park. A landscape architect by training, Blonsky calls Central Park “the soul of New York City,” and laughingly shrugged off Miller’s admiring comparison.
Shortly after 9/11, he said, “The park was the cathedral, it was the church, it was the temple,” going on to describe the masses of people who came out to the park.
He also did not hesitate to bring up one of Olmsted’s most convincing arguments for supporting urban parks. “A lot of people don’t stop to think about how important Central Park is for the economy,” he said, referencing the Central Park Effect, a report commissioned by the Conservancy in May, 2008, which estimated that visitors to the park generated $80 million in spending outside the park in 2007. “Real estate values,” he added, “quadruple within a 10-minute walk of the park.” Appleseed, the economic development consultants who released the report, posted an interesting article on how Central Park responded to the recession on their blog.