Manhattan Plaza Park is a shady pocket park on 43rd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues in New York City. Its wooden benches and comfortable seating ledges make it a nice place to stop on a warm day. Built in 1977, this pocket park was originally going to be luxury apartments until the developer went bankrupt. Thanks to the work of Reverend Rodney Kirk, an Episcopal minister, the building became a residence for those who needed help caring for themselves during the AIDS crisis, but now runs as a retirement residence for the performing arts community.
This building must be a pretty good place to live because it has a six-year waiting list due to its income scale-based rent plan.
For more information on this and any of the other pocket parks in New York City, order your copy of BEST Pocket Parks of NYC by clicking on the photo or visiting Amazon.com. Thank you!
1166 Avenue of the Americas passes between 45th & 46th Streets. The neighborhood known as Little Brazil flanks it on the 46th Street side between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It is noted by a small sign on Fifth and 46th, but you would realize where you are even if you did not see the sign. Several of the businesses on 46th broadcast their Brazilian ties by decorating their storefronts with the Brazilian flag.
This park is always filled with people when I pass. It’s peaceful and one of those comfortable, well-planned parks with many levels. Both built-in benches and moveable tables and chairs are scattered throughout the space, and there are a number of plantings and trees throughout. On the 45th Street side, there is a sculpture that seems to be floating in the pool of the fountain. Throwback (1976-1979) is an abstract sculpture made from black aluminum and created by Tony Smith. The 46th Street side features a Memorial to the souls from March & McLennan who were lost on 9/11. The inscription can be found at http://memorial.mmc.com/
The next stop was nearby Chatham Square. Kimlau Memorial Arch was erected in 1962 to honor LT Benjamin Ralph Kimlau, a World War II hero of Chinese decent, but the square, Chatham Square, has been there forever and previously hosted the site of the Second and Third Avenue Elevated Lines before their demolition in the mid-20th century. It is a short distance from there to Columbus Park. Though it isn’t a pocket park, I had to take my son there to enjoy the Asian musicians, impromptu singers and Mahjong games. It was a hive of activity as we stopped to listen and took a few pictures of our new-found obsession: Bubble Tea.
The schlepp to Bennett Park about ten blocks away was worth my son’s reaction to the Helix, a sculpture by Rudolph de Harak erected in 1969. It is a series of one-inch stainless steel strips fashioned into a helix that fascinated my future engineer. This was where I discovered what a wonderful photographer he is. I handed over the camera and he became my official photographer for the rest of the day.
New York City is a vibrant culture populated by pocket parks. It is a guide I was privileged to write and an experience I was privileged to share with my son if only for one day.
Have you ever passed an inviting seating area between two massive skyscrapers in the city and wondered about it or do you just sit down and finish your coffee? I have wondered who built these spaces and why ever since I discovered them as a resident of New York City in the ‘80’s. Many are created in honor of a fallen hero, but most are created in exchange for building variances such as the permission to build higher or wider. They are not well-regulated, so the fact that one has become simply a widened sidewalk and not a park at all often goes unnoticed.
The first pocket park came about when in 1965, Mayoral candidate, John Lindsay saw a need to spruce up the city a bit. He suggested that New York City create “vest pocket parks” or “adventure playgrounds.” Later, when he was elected Mayor of New York City, he implemented his ideas and helped created the first vest pocket parks in the city. According to an essay on the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, Parks Commissioner, Thomas P.F. Hoving encouraged their use for public events and aided Lindsay by bring various events to the parks. He even banned cars in Central Park on Sundays. In 1967, the city completed 10 vest pocket parks in vacant city lots equal to or smaller than one-quarter acre.
The very first pocket park was created at 65 W. 128th by Reverend Linnette C. Williamson of Christ Community Church of Harlem. She was instrumental in developing this pocket park, so it was later dedicated in her honor.
There are now some 500+ pocket parks or public spaces on the city’s list of POPS (Privately Owned Public Space) , but only a little of 350 in Manhattan that are comfortable to sit in or even have seating. That’s why I am writing this book. ‘Pocket Parks of NYC’ will be a guide to the usable pocket parks and public spaces in Manhattan, both official and unofficial. These will be the parks that you can sit and relax in, maybe with a snack kiosk nearby or the odd waterfall, and maybe on top of a building or indoors. I conduct my research by methodically strolling through Manhattan in addition to my online research and word-of-mouth tips.
Other than Frommer's-type sections in other books, there is nothing like it on the market aside from Jerrold Kayden’s textbook ‘Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience,’ which contains all of the spaces, even those that are now widened sidewalks or private space, and from which the City's database was created.
One of the exciting pieces of this project is that it is replicable in other cities. It will also become a dynamic website where aficionados could post information about their favorite pocket parks along with their reviews and opinions, an ebook and an app for your smartphone or tablet. Other cities will have their own guides in the future.
So, what is a pocket park? It is a little green space in the middle of the big city where one can sit, relax and take a break before moving on to their next position in the big game of Chess we call "Life."
409 E. 59th St.
I am always amazed at how much New Yorkers care about their city, at least most of the time. Those who have the means often try to contribute to making this place beautiful. The Evangeline Blashfield Fountain is one of these instances. Dedicated in May 1919 in honor of a patron of public space in New York City, this fountain was built to provide water for the vendors at the open-air market that originally stood on the site. In 2002, various patrons and economic agencies combined to restore it to its original beauty.
It sits at the end of the plaza attached to Guastavino’s, a banquet hall that is home to weddings, corporate events and other lush events. When the hall is not engaged, the plaza is open to the public. You must be warned that it is rather loud with its location directly below the 59th Street Bridge. Even so, it is worth a trip to visit this magnificent testimony to a benevolent person and the magnificent fountain created in her honor.
Thank you to Stan O'Connor http://www.oconnorgreentoursnyc.com/ for the use of this video. The waterfall is located behind the McGraw-Hill building located on 6th Avenue and runs behind the building from 48th St. to 49th St. Check out the video to learn more.
© 2013 Rosemary O’Brien of Pocket Parks Publishing, LLC
Image © 2012 peterjr1961
I was so excited to discover this tidbit while confirming locations via Google Maps. (I love Google Maps, by the way. It has been an integral part of the initial phase of my parks research.) Despite the fact that Worth Square may not appear in the official version of the book, Pocket Parks of NYC, I wanted to share this with you.
Worth Square is located just to the West of Madison Square Park, down in the Flat Iron District. Located at the intersection of Broadway, Fifth Avenue, West 24th and West 25th Street, Worth Square is one of two New York monuments that is also a mausoleum, according to the New York City Parks & Recreation’s Historical Signs Project. The other mausoleum is Grant’s Tomb in Harlem. Worth Monument is also the second oldest monument in New York City after the George Washington monument in Union Square.
If you visit Worth Square, head across the street to Madison Square Park to the Shake Shack for a cup of coffee, a burger or to let your dog go for a run at Jemmy's Dog Run. You can't beat it at the end of a long day when the weather is nice.
Monday, I took advantage of one of the last beautiful days before the snow and bad weather most certainly begins. I ended my trip in Madison Square Park, right next to Worth Square. Here is an updated photo of the public space beneath General Worth's monument.
Paley Park, on 53rd Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues, is one of those quintessential New York City pocket parks. It is located right on the street so that passersby can look in, notice it and be persuaded to stop for a moment. If the seating and lush ivy walls do not draw them in, the waterfall at the back of the space should do it. By the way, the waterfall is backlit in the evening.
Completed in 1967, Paley Park was built and paid for by William S. Paley, former Chairman of CBS and is featured in the film, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, by William H. Whyte. Mr. Paley was involved in every aspect of the planning of the park. Zion and Breene Associates designed this 4200 sq. ft. park slightly above street level, but the sidewalk blends into the park making it a seamless transition from the Manhattan street to the tranquil park. Not to say this place is quiet. It definitely is not, but the sound comes from the 1800 gallons per minute of water from the waterfall. This white noise drowns out the city sounds beyond the entrance. It is must more pleasing to listen to than the cabs and the traffic noise just outside the iron gates of the entrance.
If you go:
Check out the restoration of the stained glass windows at St. Thomas Episcopal Church just a block west on 53rd St. and 5th Ave.
400 Park Avenue (between 53rd & 54th Streets)
Though the Seagram’s Building across the street is widely credited with the beginning of the city’s love of urban plazas, Lever House was the actual pioneer. The developers wanted to illustrate Lever Bros. identity as a soap company by creating a “squeaky clean” design. The result was to sacrifice valuable ground-floor real estate in exchange for wide-open public space, albeit under the building at street level.
The first time I went there to investigate, I found the south part of the plaza. It is so large that when I went back during another trip, I thought the north side of the plaza was an entirely different space. The center where the elevator banks are located is surrounded by glass, but it is wide enough to make it difficult to see the other side. The building takes up the entire block and is a nice spot to take a break if you are looking for some shade. Head to the southern side by 53rd Street. That’s where the scant greenery as well as a seating can be found.
Park Avenue between 52nd and 53rd St.
Designed by well-known German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in collaboration with American Philip Johnson, Seagram’s Plaza inspired the city to pass a resolution for more public space in 1961. While the resolution was not completely successful, it did lead to enough of these spaces for me to write this book!
There are two issues with this space, though I love it on the whole. It was built during a time when accessibility was not a major concern for builders. As such, the plaza, as well as the two side entrances, are raised from the sidewalk by several steps. With that said, it is a nice place to catch some rays and people-watch if it is not too hot outside.