New York, NY
The Harlem Meer, a serpentine 11-acre lake at Central Park’s northeastern border, was once a favorite destination for families. During New York’s decline with the 1970s budget crisis, it fell into disuse. The collapse of a concrete shoreline promenade prevented access to lake and, if visitors were able to get to the shore, they found a lake choked with algae, weeds and silt. As a landscape architect at the Central Park Conservancy, Laura Starr forged a multifold restoration plan for the Meer, combining landscape design, lake ecology, recreational programming, and long term maintenance. The banks of the lake were restored in the untamed spirit that Olmsted intended for the north end. The undulated shoreline was rebuilt and features pebbled landings, winding paths, aquatic grasses, and naturalistic boulders. A small sandy beach and manicured grassy areas invite lounging and picnicking. The lake was cleaned, stocked with fish, and an ongoing program offering free fishing poles to visitors was established. A public facilities building, resembling a turn-of-the-century boathouse in the style of Central Park’s original buildings, was built at the water’s edge. The lake’s banks are once again lively with children and adults playing, fishing, and enjoying the water birds that flock there.