David Shulyer has a nice short history of the project that led to iconic Central Park.
He says it was one of the best investment NY has ever made:
Perhaps inevitably, the park was drawn into the maelstrom of city politics from its very inception. The Charter of 1857, which created the Board of Commissioners of the Central Park, was a patently undemocratic document that attempted to remove control of park construction from the city’s Democratic leaders. Construction was halted by strikes, as a fractious workforce, beset by the deskilling that accompanied industrialization and by competition for jobs from immigrants, resisted Olmsted’s efforts to establish a strong work discipline among employees. Park commissioners of every political affiliation sought patronage appointments on the park’s workforce, which led Olmsted, in the 1870s, to maintain a journal recording his travails at the hands of city politicians. Moreover, opponents of the park’s administration and cost launched several administrative reviews of operations, each of which concluded that the management of Central Park was efficient, even exemplary.
Despite the enormous difficulties and extravagant cost, Olmsted, Vaux, and their associates created, with Central Park, an urban landscape that delighted residents. Shortly after the park opened to the public, skating on the park’s lake and ponds became a favorite pastime, as was carriage driving and strolling on the park’s paths, though Olmsted fought to keep competitive sports, such as baseball, out of the park. Visitors wrote about their enjoyment of the park, publishers issued guides to its landscape, and photographers recorded its scenery and the public’s appreciation of its many features. Central Park remains one of the best investments New York City has ever made. Indeed, it is hard to imagine life in Manhattan without it.
How all such projects have such a fascinating history to them…Has a bit of everything – geography, economics, public finance, politics …