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Harlem Partnerships Revitalize Central Park’s North End

Through collaborations with the Harlem communities, the Central Park Conservancy is revitalizing the Park’s north end.

While the southern end of Central Park boasts many recognizable features like Gapstow Bridge, the Mall, and the Central Park Zoo, there’s plenty to enjoy in the north end of the Park. Visitors who long to escape the crowds and enjoy a more tranquil experience will find much to love above the 97th Street Transverse, from the peaceful Harlem Meer and the picturesque trails of the North Woods to the beauty of the Conservatory Garden. The Central Park Conservancy, the nonprofit responsible for all aspects of the Park’s care, is continuing to invest in Central Park’s north end through projects like the Gate of the Exonerated and the new Harlem Meer Center, which is slated to open this winter.

rendering new harlem meer center

The Central Park Conservancy has been working on the new Harlem Meer Center since September 2021. It is the most significant and complex project ever undertaken by the organization. Once completed, it will transform the former Lasker Rink and Pool into a state-of-the-art facility with a full-scale ice rink, a larger-than-Olympic-sized pool, and an outdoor spray pad. The redesign will better connect the north end by reconstructing the waterway that travels through the Ravine and re-establishing a former pedestrian path. Beyond revitalizing the physical space, the Harlem Meer Center will also offer new free and low-cost programming for families, including skating, hockey, and swimming.

This isn’t the Conservancy’s first effort to better serve the area’s adjoining communities. In the 1980s, the Conservancy removed 34,000 cubic yards of sediment and debris from the Harlem Meer lakebed and stabilized the shoreline. Another major aspect of the revitalization of the area was the construction of the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, a Conservancy-run visitor facility along the north shore of the Harlem Meer that offers community programming and hosts special events, including the annual Harlem Meer Performance Festival. Since 1993, this area of the Park has hosted the summer festival, which brings multicultural music, dance and other performances to thousands of attendees each summer along the banks of the Harlem Meer. This joyful community event will take place from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm every Sunday from July 14 to August 18, 2024, so mark your calendars now and explore other Summer on the Harlem Meer programming.

Harlem Meer Performance Festival

In recent years, the Central Park Conservancy also worked with the Harlem community to build and dedicate the Gate of the Exonerated, located on 110th Street between Malcolm X Boulevard and Fifth Avenue. The name of the entrance refers to the five teenagers formerly known as the Central Park Five, who were unjustly convicted for the rape of a female jogger in Central Park. In 2002, their convictions were overturned. The gate was dedicated on December 19, 2022, on the 20th anniversary of the vacated convictions. The Gate of the Exonerated was the result of more than two years of community-led dialogue among Harlem residents about what the case meant for Black and Latino New Yorkers and what healing might look like.

Gate Of The Exonerated

Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Kevin Richardson unveil the Gate of the Exonerated.

Other Central Park Conservancy projects in the north end have included the 2011 creation of Frederick Douglass Circle—a plaza with a statue of Frederick Douglass and multiple architectural features that relate to escaping slavery—on the west side of 110th Street and the reconstruction of the playground at East 110th Street, which was completed in 2013. Another significant project was the restoration of the Ravine, which involved the complete reconstruction of paths and infrastructure and revegetation of the landscape. It was completed in 2017.

Be the first to explore the new Harlem Meer Center! Sign up for exclusive updates and early event access with the Central Park Conservancy’s Harlem Meer Newsletter. You can also follow the organization on social @CentralParkNYC and use the hashtag #myHarlemMeer to find up-to-date information.