October 8, 2009

The Wilderness In New York City

I've had a few posts recently about what Manhattan was like 400 years ago when the Dutch arrived. Basically, it was a wilderness of astounding beauty that, if it had not become a great city, would likely be one our greatest national parks.

Today, though most of New York City has been paved and developed many times over, there is a surprising amount of green space here considering it is one of the densest places on the planet. In fact, NYC is probably the greenest city in the world with roughly 25% of it's total acreage reserved for parks. That means that within the borders of the five boroughs there are roughly 33,000 acres of public parkland. Astounding. And 8,000 acres of that land has been designated as "forever wild" which means it will never be developed or managed or anything. What that means is that if a tree falls in one of those woods, not only does no one hear it, no one will ever remove it either.

A few years back, NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe wanted to catalog the city's natural beauty. So he approached well-known street photographer Joel Meyerowitz and asked him if he'd be interested in documenting the city's parks and creating a modern archive. Meyerowitz took some 3,000 images which have been distilled into a book of 250 photographs called
"Legacy: The Preservation of Wilderness in New York City Parks". The book, published by the Apeture Foundation, is out now and the Museum of the City of New York has an exhibit opening today which features a selection of these photos. The pictures, like the one above of the Bronx, are stunning in that you would never guess they are scenes shot in the city. And they're a great reminder to get out and see a little wilderness in this urban jungle.

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