A look at the construction of Central Park's new Harlem Meer Center on track for 2024 opening

Dani Beckstrom Image
Wednesday, October 5, 2022
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The Central Park Conservancy's largest project is underway for restoring Central Park's north end. Dani Beckstrom has the story.

CENTRAL PARK, Manhattan (WABC) -- The largest project in the Central Park Conservancy's 40-year history is underway at the north end of the park with the intention of revitalizing the area around the Harlem Meer.

"One of our big goals is to really reconnect the Harlem community to what's right here behind us which is this incredible 40-acre woodland called the North Woods," said Andrea Buteau from the Central Park Conservancy.

The problem has been the Lasker Rink and Pool which has been a community staple, but one that acted as a barrier between the Harlem community and the North Woods since it was built in 1966.

The solution comes in the form of an ambitious project that rebuilds the rink and pool without sacrificing the purpose of the park.

"Our intention is to bring back the beauty but to also still have the programs, still have the pool, still have the ice skating, still have the facility. So one way we're handling that is that the facility is being built into the side of the hill with a green roof on top of it so the park actually extends on top of the facility itself," said David Turner from the Central Park Conservancy.

They are also daylighting a stream that flows from a pool near 102nd street to the Harlem Meer that was rerouted through an underground culvert in the 60s.

In order to do this, the conservancy's construction team sent divers into the Meer to install a temporary dam, allowing them to pump water from one side to the other, to create space for crews to build the new rink and pool facility, boardwalk, and greenspace around the stream.

WATCH: Central Park north end restoration plan unveiled

"The idea was to stroll through the wooded area, the lock area, and then it would open up into this big vista known as the Harlem Meer," said Turner.

The dam will be removed in the spring with construction slated to be finished in the summer of 2024.

The pool will be free to enter, the rink will support community and league skating programs, and a turf system is planned to add additional park space during the spring and fall.

Overall, the project aims to make sure the Harlem community can enjoy all the benefits their big backyard has to offer.

"We really wanted to make sure that the communities at the north end of the park had the benefit of really ease and open access to the beauty of the north woods and really be able to connect the community to the naturalistic elements of the park, to really bring back the vision of what the park intended to be which is really a respite for all," said Buteau.

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