The Central Park Conservancy, in partnership with the City of New York, broke ground commencing the construction of the Harlem Meer Center on the current site of Lasker Rink and Pool.
The new facility will replace the existing one and restore the historic character and ecological health of the site while expanding access to year-round recreation for the surrounding community. The project features a larger-than-Olympic-size pool that transforms into a flexible recreation space in spring and fall and an ice-skating rink in winter. Opening onto the pool deck, there will be a light-filled pavilion that provides a gathering space and public amenities for pool, rink, and park patrons—all integrated into the topography of the Park through a design that blurs the line between landscape and architecture.
The new facility will be constructed as part of a full redevelopment of the site that includes repairing and revegetating the landscape, recreating the stream course that historically flowed into the Meer, and establishing a wetland edge and boardwalk along the shoreline adjacent to the new facility.
“Central Park’s original purpose was to connect New Yorkers with the healthful effects of nature, and that has never been more apparent, or needed, than in the last 18 months,” said Betsy Smith, President & CEO of the Central Park Conservancy. “This project will reconnect the Harlem community with the entirety of the Park, expanding access to the full physical and mental benefits greenspaces provide.”
“Parks aren’t a luxury, they are a necessity for the working people of New York City. The Central Park Conservancy has worked with the City through the worst of the pandemic to provide New Yorkers with a place to make memories, recharge, and escape,” said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Today, in true partnership, we celebrate the groundbreaking of the Harlem Meer Center, a state-of-the-art facility for the Harlem community. Congratulations!”
“Achieving equity is systems-changing work. With today’s groundbreaking, the Central Park Conservancy and the City make a statement: everyone deserves beautiful, accessible, quality spaces—especially the black and brown communities who have too often seen the parks that serve them neglected,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Vicki Been. “Thank you to the Central Park Conservancy for engaging the public in such a thorough community review process and for helping us move towards a more equitable New York City.”
“The Harlem Meer Center project will remove Lasker Rink and Pool and create a new state-of-the-art facility that honors Olmsted’s original vision for this area, integrating with Central Park’s landscape and offering community programming throughout the year,” said NYC Parks Acting Commissioner Margaret Nelson. “We are excited to break ground on such an outstanding transformation, and we thank the Central Park Conservancy for their partnership and work overseeing this innovative project.”
Through a series of workshops, meetings, and site tours, the Conservancy engaged the community throughout the planning and design process receiving overwhelming support for the project.
“Central Park is a vital greenspace that our city has grown to appreciate and depend on for revitalization during these trying times. As a father of two, short visits to the Park and walks by the Meer to search for turtles were the only connection to normalcy during the pandemic,” said Xavier Santiago, Vice-Chair of Manhattan Community Board 11. “We are thrilled to see investment in the northern section of the Park at the new Harlem Meer Center, which will be environmentally sustainable, fully accessible, and open year-round to all of us who use this iconic New York City resource.”
The Conservancy is undertaking the project in partnership with NYC Parks and leading the design and planning effort in collaboration with the architectural team of Susan T. Rodriguez Architecture | Design and Mitchell Giurgola.
In June, the New York City Public Design Commission recognized the teams working on this project with the Award for Excellence in Design.
The new facility is the capstone effort of the Conservancy’s transformational restoration of the northern end of the Park and is the largest project in the organization’s history. Construction is expected to be completed in 2024.
About the Central Park Conservancy
The Central Park Conservancy is a private, not-for-profit organization that manages Central Park and is responsible for raising the Park’s annual operating budget. The Conservancy’s staff of more than 300 is responsible for all aspects of the Park’s stewardship, from day-to-day maintenance and operations to continued restoration and rebuilding projects. Additionally, the Conservancy operates the Park’s visitor centers, provides public programs, and serves as a resource for other NYC parks and for public-private partnerships around the world. For more information, please visit centralparknyc.org.