Morningside Park is a 12-hectare (30-acre) public park located in Upper Manhattan, New York. The park is bounded to the south by 110th Street, to the north by 123rd Street, to the east by Morningside Avenue and to the west by Morningside Drive; it forms the border between Harlem and Morningside Heights to the east and west, respectively. Most of the park is adjacent to the University of Columbia, on the western frontier.
Morningside Park exists under the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Its natural geography contains a Manhattan schist rock cliff that separates the Morningside Heights high ground from the Harlem low ground. Furthermore, within the park are several rock outcroppings and a man-made ornamental pond and waterfall. The park includes three sculptures, a number of athletic fields, playgrounds, and an arboretum.
The area close to Morningside Park was originally known by the Lenape Native Americans as “Muscota.” In 1867 the Central Park commissioners first proposed the park, and in 1873 the city commissioned the designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux from Central Park to produce a design for the park. While Jacob Wrey Mould was employed in 1880 to design new designs, little progress was made until Olmsted and Vaux were asked to amend the designs after Mould ‘s death in 1886; construction was completed in 1895. Monuments were built between 1900 and 1914, followed between the 1930s and 1950s by softball fields, basketball courts, and playgrounds.
Following Columbia’s proposal to build a gym in the park in 1963, major student protests arose in 1968 resulting in the plan eventually being abandoned. Morningside Park acquired a reputation for high crime rates in the late 20th century, and several groups made plans to renovate the park. The planned Columbia gym site was turned into a waterfall and pond in 1990, and the park was added to the arboretum in 1998.
Morningside Park is owned, operated, and managed by the Parks and Recreation Department of New York City. The park ‘s primary advocacy and community stewardship organization are Friends of Morningside Park, a nonprofit organization founded in 1981 to support returning the park to its original design. The organization has rehabilitated the park through voluntary service since its establishment, as well as donations for staffing and equipment. Between 1996 and 1998, the organization disintegrated after the death of founder Thomas Kiel. In 2001, volunteers in the park organized some fourteen major public events, including festivals, concerts, and various holiday celebrations.
Friends of Morningside Park had around 1,000 volunteers by 2005. The organization receives a moderate amount of money against similar nonprofits that maintain public parks in New York City. It received about $50,000 per annum in private donations as of 2013, and the largest single donation ever was $10,000.
The Central Park Conservancy which maintains nearby Central Park also provides funding for maintenance and staff training programs for other New York City public parks, including Morningside Park. In 2005, Conservancy established the Historic Harlem Parks project in Morningside Park, St. Nicholas Park, Jackie Robinson Park, and Marcus Garvey Park, providing horticultural and maintenance assistance and mentoring.