Central Park

The Daily Plant : Tuesday, April 3, 2012

From Pawnee, Indiana To Central Park

Photo by Daniel Avila

On April 2, Aziz Ansari, comedian and star of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” joined the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation and the Central Park Conservancy as the first “Ambassador of Spring” to ceremonially mow Sheep Meadow -- one of Central Park’s most popular lawns -- before it re-opens to the public for the spring.

The first mow of Central Park symbolizes the start of spring in New York City and prepares Central Park’s lawns for an estimated 38 million annual visitors. Every winter, the Park’s lawns are closed for seasonal maintenance and protection. On Saturday, April 7, the lawns will officially re-open to the public for a season of picnicking, relaxing, recreation, and more.

Aziz plays Tom Haverford on NBC's "Parks & Recreation." He appears alongside a talented cast that includes Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Adam Scott and Rob Lowe.

Joining Aziz at the "first mow" were Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Central Park Conservancy President Doug Blonsky. In welcoming Aziz to Central Park, Commissioner Benepe said, “From one Parks Department employee to another, I am thrilled to welcome Tom Haverford all the way from Pawnee, Indiana. If he ever wants to leave Pawnee, I’m sure we can find a place for him here in New York City.”

Before Aziz got on the lawnmower, he said to the assembled crowd, “When I initially agreed to do this, I thought it would be later in the day and that I would be getting a key to the city. Instead it's really early and I'm getting a key to the city's lawnmower, which I guess is kind of nice. I'll put that along with the other city keys I have — the key to the city's juicer, the key to the city's vacuum cleaner, and of course the key to the city's Showtime rotisserie grill.”

This 15-acre Sheep Meadow began as something very different. The 1858 design competition for Central Park required a parade ground for military drills. Winning landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux reluctantly included the parade ground. However, they convinced the Park’s Commissioners that military use conflicted with their vision of the Park as a quiet escape.

Although these days you’ll mostly find sunbathers lounging on the lawn, the meadow was actually home to a flock of sheep from 1864 until 1934. The sheep and shepherd were housed in a fanciful Victorian building nearby – what became the famous Tavern on the Green restaurant. In the 1960s and 70s, thousands of people came to Sheep Meadow for large-scale concerts. Even the first landing on the moon was televised to a crowd at the Meadow on July 20, 1969. But these events, and the lack of management and maintenance, led to the lawn becoming severely eroded –a virtual dustbowl.

In 1980, it was restored and has been maintained by The Central Park Conservancy since then. The meadow became the Park’s first Quiet Zone – which means it’s the perfect place to relax and unwind. Sheep Meadow attracts thousands of visitors, who gather to sunbathe, picnic, and enjoy this pastoral escape – free from the hustle and bustle of New York City.

The mission of the Central Park Conservancy is to restore, manage and enhance Central Park in partnership with the public for the enjoyment of present and future generations. A private, not-for-profit organization founded in 1980, the Conservancy provides 85 percent of Central Park's $42 million park-wide expense budget and is responsible for all basic care of the Park. For more information on the Conservancy, please visit centralparknyc.org.


“SSerts is what I call desserts. Tray trays are entrees. I call sandwiches sammies, sandoozles, or Adam Sandlers. Air conditioners are cool blasterz, with a z I dunno where that came from. I call cakes, big ol' cookies. All noodles, long ass rice. Fried chicken is fri fri chicky chick. Chicken parm is chicky chicky parm parm. Chicken cacciatore, chicky catch. I call eggs, pre birds, or future birds. Root beer is super water. Tortillas are bean blankies. And I call forks, food rakes.”

Aziz Ansari as Tom Haverford
Parks & Recreation

Directions to Central Park

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