Acolytes of Jane Jacobs (and I am one) have a hard time defending giant urban parks. Many small parks have an obvious role in urban life, but can a thriving city do without a giant park? New York, Paris and Berlin have one (or two, in Paris’s case), but London and Mumbai don’t. They can’t really be for providing city residents with a dose of “nature,” as they have to be tamed and domesticated to serve a large population. As Jacobs points out, they deaden urban life all around their borders, because unlike small parks (and public squares), they don’t have effective “live edges,” to use her term of art. That is, they don’t have people constantly coming in and out of building on all sides.
It’s on those grounds, I think, exactly that big parks should be defended. They provide solitude. While I’m not sure Central Park really is a better use of valuable urban space than, say, a dozen more Greenwich Villages, there’s no doubt that something felicitous results from its failures.