The Great Lawn
The Great Lawn is the filled-in site of an old reservoir that sits in the center of the park between approximately 81st and 85th streets.
The centerpiece of the Great Lawn is the Oval, a large open meadow with softball fields on the perimeters used primarily for recreation. The Oval has also been the site of huge free concerts by Paul Simon and Diana Ross. The Disney film Pocahontas was premiered here. Billy Graham was speaking there on the day I moved to New York in September of 1993.
By the mid 90s, continuous use and erratic maintenance compounded by drainage problems associated with the old subterranean reservoir structure left the Great Lawn basically a field of mud. Following an appearance by the Pope in the fall of 1995, the Great Lawn was closed for a massive renovation. The work was funded primarily by The Central Park Conservancy, a private non-profit organization that in 1980 took over restoration and maintenance duties that the cash-strapped city government was unable to fund. The downside of this public/private partnership is the severe restrictions imposed by this organization after the renovation (no impromptu ball games, no dogs, closing the lawn during winter).
There is a small open area just east of the Great Lawn north of Cleopatra's Needle that is especially attractive in the Spring, with a number of flowering magnolia and crab apple trees. I'm not sure if this area has a legitimate name, but with the imposing visage of Alexander Hamilton keeping watch, Hamilton Meadow seems an appropriate moniker.