Though the majority of the construction of Central Park was completed during the time that ‘Boss’ Tweed was in control of the city government, few people did more damage to it in such a short period of time.
He handed out thousand of unnecessary jobs in park maintenance in return for political favors, resulting in the razing of trees and denuding of entire areas. He even planned to put in a race track in the fashionable south end and a massive zoo in the bucolic North Meadow.
Olmsted stood on the sidelines, watching in helpless agony, fired from his position as consulting architect, as both his and Calvert Vaux’s original design for the park was unwound.
If the New York Times didn’t run a successful campaign to uncover Tweed’s unusually corrupt regime, even more damage would have been done and Olmsted’s own reputation permanently damaged.
As time would have it, Tweed was dethroned and the damage contained and eventually reversed.
In my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, I have tried to recreate much of this corrupt backdrop, at least in spirit, to show my readers that just because it happened in the past doesn’t mean it won’t take place in the future.