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Historical Ecology of Central Park

Lecture with Daniel Atha

February 25, 1pm

Third House, Montauk

Newly anointed president of the new nation, George Washington, Martha and his adopted children enjoyed a victory lap over its hills and through its meadows. Mehitabel Wing Prender- gast, galloped down the Post Road in the dead of night to deliver a message to King George, hoping to spare the life of her husband, sentenced to die by hanging for the crime of protesting unjust taxation—a decade before and over the same terrain as the more famous midnight ride of Paul Revere. Once the exclusive hunting and grounds of the Lenape, Central Park’s bucolic acres saw bloody battles, a prototypical suburban community and the realization of Frederick Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s ideal of a picturesque landscape where New York’s teeming masses could escape the ills of overcrowding and be inspired and rejuvenated by nature. Central Park’s 843 acres are an oasis of green on an island of concrete--neutral ground between the Upper West Side and its rival across the park, the Upper East Side. Presenting original research and lavishly illustrated, botanist Daniel Atha will convince his audience that a prolonged winter, 20,000 years ago gave shape to a non-descript patch of tundra that determined the course of history.

Daniel Atha retired from the New York Botanical Garden after nearly three decades of research. He has conducted botanical field work in all 50 states of the US as well as Vietnam, Bolivia, Central and South America and the Caucasus of western Asia. He published a book on the plants of Belize, over sixty scientific papers and has discovered two plant species new to science. In 2020, he published a botanical inventory of New York’s Central Park. His work in research, conservation and art has appeared in The New York Times (twice), The Wall Street Journal, Vogue and the journal Nature. He lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and is currently writing a book on the historical ecology of Central Park.

Presented in association with the Suffolk County Parks Department

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