| || Among New Yorkers’ greatest pleasures is their freedom to escape the city simply by stepping into Central Park. This green space, which covers more than 842 acres (341 hectares) between 59th and 101th Streets, has been at New York’s disposal ever since 1859, when the city spent more than $5 million on what was then just a stretch of wild, muddy marshland. In summer it is a relaxing haven for roller-skaters and cyclists; in winter, ice-skaters can use the rink in the park’s heart. Central Park is so much a part of Manhattan that few people realize it is entirely manmade. The park’s architects, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, could hardly have imagined when they were planning it how important the park would become to New York’s identity—no more than they could have envisioned the flood of more than 250,000 people who would wander through its paths on spring weekends. At the time, Olmsted and Vaux were launching a plan to make leisure more democratic and to bring it within reach of all regardless of social barriers.
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