The area proposed for the new park was described in the New-York Daily Times of July 9, 1856, and echoed by park advocates in disparaging terms.

Businesses in the proposed park area where called "nuisance industries." They included soap and candle factories, which used offensive chemicals and emitted bad odors, and a bone-boiling plant that used the animal carcasses to make oil that was used in refining sugar, as well as in making glue.

The park communities were portrayed as disease-ridden shantytowns inhabited by "tramps," "squatters," and "thieves"--the lowest rungs of society--who lived in dilapidated shacks surrounded by pigs, sheep, and cows.


On July 21, 1853, after much debate, the city legislature passed a bill authorizing that all the land between 59th and 106th Streets, from Fifth Avenue to Eighth Avenue, be taken by right of eminent domain so that a park could be built. The owners were to be compensated after the city surveyor had determined the value of each piece of property. At the same time, since it was expected that the value of the properties outside the park’s boundaries—north from 34th Street to 120th Street and west of Second Avenue all the way to Eleventh Avenue—would increase, these owners would also have their properties valued. Taxes based on those assessments would help finance the new park.

Residents and property owners were ordered to vacate the park area by August 1, 1856.

When the property assessments were announced, many park land owners objected strenuously that they were too low. They believed that they were suffering unjustly because the real estate market was temporarily depressed. Many of those who objected filed "affidavits of petition."

Owners outside the village were equally upset, but for the opposite reason: they felt that their assessments were too high. They knew that the higher the assessment, the more they would have to pay in taxes.

By the summer of 1856, approximately 1,600 people in the 775-acre expanse destined for development had lost their homes. These men and women had little political or economic power, which made it difficult for them to have their voices heard by those members of the ruling class who were determined to see the park built.