Battle of the Boroughs: Prospect Park vs. Central Park

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Does "anyone seriously considered the two parks comparable," as one of the two New York Times writers assigned to the story writes in Sunday's paper? Doesn't matter: Here's an artful weekend story, doing exactly that, comparing Manhattan's classic Central Park to Brooklyn's BroBo alternative, Prospect Park. The debate is thoughtful, well-written, and even funny, all too rare in these "newspapers." But is either argument persuasive, either park superior? Let's run down the evidence, if there is any.

It's easy to make fun of Brooklyn, the always the bridesmaid borough. How do you even get there? Central Park's ambassador, under the (appropriately pretentious) Manhattan name, punning on one of the park's architects, Vaux Populi, writes:

I have nothing against Prospect Park. I have actually been to Prospect Park. It is, as I recall, in Brooklyn. I am sure that if I found myself near it again and had nothing better to do, I would be happy to watch the grass grow, or whatever it is people do there.

Then Jim Rasenberger calls Central Park "THE GREATEST URBAN PARK ON EARTH." And we're off.

Central Park, Elizabeth Giddens writes, arguing for Prospect Park, is "like God making man before woman." Much of the discussion, while fun, is insubstantial, literary turns of phrase, clever illusions. But which is the better park? Here's the article, mined for a sample of legitimate points:

Pro-Prospect

- Central Park is "entirely overrun by tourists," "Lycra-clad bikers," and "annex to gym and tanning salon"

- And, oh, those horse carriages: "Everyone on them seems so embarrassed. Even the horses are mortified."

- "Undulating hills dotted with ancient trees"

- Poison ivy in Central Park

- "A gracious meadow, an immense lake, a lush native forest

- "More than 20 species of fish"

Pro-Central

- What's wrong with tourists? "Great numbers of people from different backgrounds and economic classes commingle."

- The statue of Balto

- "Nary a right angle is to be found within its borders," whatever that means.

- The Mall (also "the plush sward of Sheep Meadow, the boat pond, the elegant bridges")

- Size

You get the idea: One likes trees, open space, animals; the other... trees, open space, animals. "Ultimately," the series ends, "I suppose the city needs both." Thousands of words on both? You be the judge.


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