Central Park reigns supreme as New York’s most iconic oasis. The 843-acre park is a natural reprieve from the city’s unparalleled urban sprawl. Its immaculate layout is renowned worldwide, attracting more than 35 million visitors a year. There are far fewer, though, that know about its slightly younger, slightly smaller, but equally impressive cousin just across the East River: Prospect Park.
Frederick Law Olmstead is one of America’s most prolific landscape architects, a status bolstered by the success of his Central Park. 10 years after that landmark achievement, Olmstead, along with partner Calvert Vaux, returned to New York to create Prospect Park, giving Brooklyn its own urban oasis.
The essence of Olmstead’s second NYC masterpiece is far different than the first. Central Park is an impeccably manicured mélange of greenery, rife with well-kept gardens and romantic walkways. Its Brooklyn counterpart, though, gives way to the elemental will of nature in a way that the Manhattan park does not, providing the borough with New York’s only green space where you can still forget that you’re in one of the densest cities in the country.
In the lesser known urban oasis NYC, numerous paths weave through open meadows and heavy thickets, and Brooklyn’s only lake fills most of its southern fields, spouting a tributary into the heart of the park. Expansive meadows spread across the park’s entirety, offering idyllic spaces for picnicking and/or the pick-up lawn game of your choosing. Gazebos and playgrounds dot the grounds, and in the summer the Prospect Park bandshell becomes a destination for live, outdoor entertainment. The venue plays host to several free and low-cost concerts every week, featuring some of the most recognizable names in music.
And though Prospect Park is busiest in the summer, you’ll never find it empty – especially on the weekends. People flock to Prospect Park on their days off. It’s a family-friendly mass of recreation that accommodates all kinds of Brooklynisms. Go for a walk, a jog, or a bike ride around the main path (a 3.35-mile loop) and you’ll find drum circles, massive barbecues, horseback riders, a zoo, and on Saturdays, one of the best farmers’ markets you’ll ever experience.
The residing President of the Brooklyn Board of Park Commissioners at the time of Prospect Park’s creation, James Stranahan, believed that a park in Brooklyn would “become a favorite resort for all classes of our community, enabling thousands to enjoy pure air, with healthful exercise, at all seasons of the year…” (according to the park’s website).
The sentiment behind Stranahan’s vision still holds true. Prospect Park is an egalitarian place that has recreational space for anyone and everyone. It assumes nothing, offers a pristine piece of open space unequaled in the rest of New York City, and only asks that you leave it the same way you found it.
A statue of Stranahan resides near the Grand Army Plaza, so pay homage to the man who envisaged such a place as you enter the verdant wonderland that is Prospect Park. Whether you live in New York or are just passing through, there is no better space to catch your breath.
This article was written by MacEagon Voyce.