Whoever invented the reservoir must have done it with him alone in mind. It was without flaw, a perfect lake set in the most unexpected of locations.*
There is only one place in New York where you can take in beautiful skyline views at ground level, and that’s in Central Park, at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.
You can access the Reservoir from the park’s entrances at 86th or 96th streets, from either the Central Park West or Fifth Avenue sides, all within easy reach of the subway. Strolling along the park’s meandering walkways, it doesn’t take long to reach the expansive body of water, circled by a running track and a black, four-foot-high, steel fence. This is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.
You can see midtown and upper Manhattan from the western, southern and eastern edges of the reservoir. Prominent buildings look miniature from across the lake (the Guggenheim – so tiny!) and on a good day, you can see the sun sets behind a silhouetted skyline. I don’t venture to Central Park often enough, but when I do, seeing these New York City views makes it really worthwhile.
I’ve been living in New York, on and off, for about six years and only recently learned that in 1994, the reservoir was dedicated to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; it was “renamed for the beloved first lady who lived nearby and often enjoyed a run along the 1 1/2-mile jogging track that circles the water.” Initially, this massive pool of water was named the Central Park Reservoir, built in 1862.
The reservoir is 40 feet deep and holds a billion gallons of water. It was built in the 1860s as a temporary water supply for New York City, while the Croton Water system was shut down for repairs two weeks each year. At the time, it was unthinkable that a billion gallons of water would last less than two weeks. Today, some speculate that the City would go through that supply in just four hours. The reservoir was decommissioned in 1993, deemed obsolete because of the Third Water Tunnel.
The Reservoir still distributes water to other Central Park locations, such as the Pool, the Loch, and the Harlem Meer, and also serves as a meditative spot.
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani today cut the ribbon to open the renovated 1.58-mile running track around Central Park‘s Reservoir. The renovations, made possible by a $500,000 gift from the Goldie-Anna Charitable Trust, replaced the track’s gravel and timber lining, and completely overhauled its drainage system. The renovations, the first since the Track initially opened in 1982, will be maintained with a $2 million grant from the Uris Brothers Foundation.
In April 2010, the jogging track was dedicated to a man named Alberto Arroyo. Name Mayor of Central Park by the path’s regular patrons, Arroyo claimed to be the first person to jog around the reservoir, in 1937.
Alberto Arroyo was there every day, and when he retired he was often there the entire day, waving and saying hello to everyone. When he couldn’t run, he walked. Then he used a cane, then a walker, and finally, after a stroke, a wheelchair. Arroyo died last month <March 2010> at 94.
This pathway is also extremely popular with walkers, tourists, photographers, and the neighbourhood’s residents, where the lake makes up a large part of their glorious backyard. Signage requests that no strollers, bikes or dogs be taken on the track. Rightly so as the pathway is way to narrow to cater to everyone (and their messes)!
There is also the track’s protocol of going with the flow; if going against traffic (i.e., clockwise) you may be faced with dozens of shocked faces and disgruntled looks. This park etiquette however, seems to work well. One just needs to be street smart if constantly stopping and starting as the path attracts some pretty swift runners. Apparently, in spring, cherry blossoms bloom along the pathway too. Can you imagine how beautiful that would look?
The Reservoir is also a lovely pit-stop during a weekend of museum hopping, after visits to The Met and/or The Guggenheim on the East Side, or the American Museum of Natural History, located at 81st Street and Central Park West .
In any kind of weather, the Reservoir’s space seduces. It’s such a calm place for the contemplative soul; an oasis for the stressed-out New Yorker; a perfect viewing spot for the traveler; and, a romantic setting for a date. By day, Manhattan is characterised by its skyscraper skyline; by night, the beautiful lampposts light up the area and transport you to Paris.
It’s another reason that gives New York its edge and character.