Central Park Zoo in New York City
The Central Park Zoo is a small zoo located in Central Park in New York City. It is part of an integrated system of four zoos and the New York Aquarium managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
The zoo began in the 1860s as a menagerie, making it the first official zoo to open in New York. The zoo was modified in 1934, with the addition of many new buildings ranged in a quadrangle around the sea lion pool. (The zoo from this era has been commonly known as the "1934 Zoo" or "Robert Moses Zoo".) Finally, the zoo was renovated in the mid-1980s and reopened in 1988, replacing the old-fashioned cages with naturalistic environments.
Trellised, vine-clad, glass-roofed pergolas link the three major exhibit areas—tropic, temperate and polar— housed in discreet new buildings of brick trimmed with granite, masked by vines. The zoo is home to an indoor rainforest, a leafcutter ant colony, and a chilled penguin house and polar bear pool. It also coordinates breeding programs for some endangered species: tamarin monkeys, Wyoming toads, thick-billed parrots and red pandas. There are also fruit bats in the rainforest and an anteater exhibit. In June 2009, a snow leopard exhibit was opened, making it one of the few zoos to present this rare species to the public. . The gates of the Children's Zoo by Paul Manship are a notable feature retained from the earlier layout.
The zoo was not part of the original "Greensward" design for Central Park created by Olmsted and Vaux, but a Central Park menagerie near New York's arsenal, on the edge of Central Park located at Fifth Avenue facing East 64th Street, spontaneously evolved in 1859 from gifts of exotic pets and other animals informally given to the Park; the original animals on display included a bear and some swans. In 1864, a formal zoo received charter confirmation from New York's assembly, making it the United States's second publicly owned zoo, after the Philadelphia Zoo, which was founded in 1859. The new zoo was given permanent quarters behind the Arsenal building in 1870.
In the early 1900s Bill Snyder was hired and he purchased Hattie, the elephant in 1904. Hattie died in 1922.
In 1934, to properly house the zoo, neo-Georgian brick and limestone zoo buildings ranged in a quadrangle round the sea lion pool were designed by Aymar Embury II, architect for the Triborough Bridge and the Henry Hudson Bridge (WPA Guide). The famous sea lion pool itself was originally designed by Charles Schmieder. For its day the sea lion pool was considered advanced because the architect actually studied the habits of sea lions and incorporated this knowledge into the design.
By 1980, the zoo, like Central Park itself, was sadly dilapidated; in that year, responsibility for its management was assumed by the New York Zoological Society which is now the Wildlife Conservation Society. The zoo was closed in the winter of 1983, and demolition began. The redesign of 1983–88 was executed by the architectural firm of Kevin Roche, Dinkeloo. The facility's old-fashioned menagerie cages were abandoned for more natural exhibits. The zoo reopened to the public on August 8, 1988. The newly renovated zoo had originally been planned to reopen in 1985 at a cost of $14 million; however, the project saw troubled times that delayed the opening for three years.
Some of the original buildings, with their low-relief limestone panels of animals, were reused in the redesigning, though the cramped outdoor cages were demolished. Most of the large animals were rehoused in larger, more natural spaces at the Bronx Zoo. The central feature of the original zoo, ranged round the sea lion pool, was retained and the pool redesigned. Since its modernization, the Central Park Zoo, originally available to parkgoers free of charge, charges admission to its enclosed precincts. The Dancing Crane Cafe, however, is still accessible from Central Park itself.
The zoo in popular culture
The Central Park Zoo was featured in Robert Lawson's Mr. Popper's Penguins (1938), in J.D. Salinger's classic novel The Catcher in the Rye (1951), and in the animated films Madagascar (2005), The Wild (2006) and ' (2008), Mr. Popper's Penguins (2011) as well as in the Madagascar animated series, The Penguins of Madagascar. The zoo is the setting of the 1967 Simon and Garfunkel song At the Zoo. It was also mentioned in Truman Capotes novella Summer Crossing.
- The New York Zoo hoax
- WPA Guide to New York City 1939, reprinted 1982, p 352
- Roy Rosenzweig and Elizabeth Blackmar, The Park and the People 1992
- Clinton H. Keeling, Skyscrapers and Sealions. Clam Publications, Guildford (Surrey), 2002.
- Joan Scheier, The Central Park Zoo. Arcadia Publishing, Portsmouth (New Hampshire), 2002.
- Central Park Zoo Website
- Images of America: The Central Park Zoo, photographs and text
- The NY City zoos
- Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates: Central Park Zoo: photographs at time of completion