On the left is Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza and the right is Paris’ Champs-Élysées
The question of green space is not a contemporary one. New York has been struggling with it for more than 150 years. By the mid-1800s, while the rich retreated to their uptown mansions, and downtown tenements and factories overflowed, landscape architects re-envisioned city life for the coming century—they dreamed in green. First, Central Park was completed in 1857 by the prolific Frederick Law Olmstead, whose work includes the U.S. Capitol and the White City of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, who then turned his gaze to Brooklyn. By 1880, Kings County had become the third largest American city but continued to be advertised as an escape from Manhattan and its corrupting modernity, as a return to nature. And as such, it needed a park and that park needed a grand entrance.