Tulips and daffodils, cherry blossoms and birds galore, the charmingly decrepit Central Park of my youth is now ancient history, as I learned on a recent trip. Defunct buildings are now sparkling hotspots like the Boathouse, refashioned and refurbished as a posh eatery with 19th-century Parisian charm.
Civilized cafes have sprouted up and scary bathrooms are well lit and clean, even the carousel seems perkier. Just a few years ago I took my kids on it, and an ex-con type was running the controls. The merry-go-round went so fast I feared my toddler son would fly off.
The most amusing sights were the hordes of European travelers delighted by the squirrels. Those cute/disease-ridden vermin are everywhere and groups of Italians and French were giddy as they attempted to photograph the creatures as they scampered up the trees. The true New Yorker in me came out as I approached a German mom who was letting her 10-year-old feed one. I told her they carried diseases and not to get too close. As I walked away I chuckled at myself…you can take the girl outta New York but you can’t take New York outta the girl.
April in New York City can be dicey weather-wise. Stupidly, I packed sandals and had to borrow boots. Somehow I forgot how much walking one does in the Big Apple and how much I enjoy it. Two long treks through Central Park were magical. Struck by the abundance of flowers, my mom explained that a wealthy Dutch person had donated millions of bulbs to the city post 9/11. It is an amazing sight and has inspired many New Yorkers to plant their own bulbs. Here is more about the project from the New Yorkers for Parks site:
For nearly a decade, the Daffodil Project, a living memorial to the events of September 11th, 2001, has been a citywide effort to beautify every neighborhood by planting daffodils. Led by New Yorkers for Parks, and in cooperation with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, this annual volunteer project serves as a living memorial to the victims of 9/11, a symbol of remembrance and an act of rebirth that engages New Yorkers in the revitalization of their communities.
The project began when Dutch bulb supplier Hans van Waardenburg of B&K Flowerbulbs pledged to donate 500,000 daffodil bulbs to New York City as a sign of support following the attacks on 9/11. B&K Flowerbulbs continued to donate hundreds of thousands of bulbs for the first 8 years of the project. New Yorkers for Parks is committed to continuing the vision of the Daffodil Project by raising funds to purchase and distribute the bulbs.
Each fall, New Yorkers for Parks distributes hundreds of thousands of daffodil bulbs to New Yorkers in all five boroughs. The bulbs are free to anyone who commits to planting them in a park or public space. The Daffodil Project is one of the largest volunteer efforts in the history of New York City. To date, over 20,000 New Yorkers have participated in this living memorial.
Since the project’s inception, 4 million daffodils have been planted throughout New York City. Due to the tremendous support and interest in this project, Mayor Bloomberg named the daffodil the official flower of New York City in 2007.