It’s a cold, snowy day in New York City, and I thought it was the perfect time to take you on a stroll of Rockefeller Park (albeit on a warmer, sunny Autumn day!). The park, named after former New York state governor and Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller, is often not on visitors’ radar. As you’ll see from this post, I think it really should be, as it offers a peaceful, relaxing walk with a variety of sensory experiences – the soothing sounds and sights of water, iconic views of the Statue of Liberty and interesting architecture, the stimulation of seeing wildlife, gardens, and public art. Outside of Central Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Rockefeller Park is probably my favorite outdoor space in the city.
So let’s start our tour. I usually take the subway to the World Trade Center area, near the Oculus transportation hub. Once we exit the station, we head west on Vesey Street toward the Hudson River, a walk of just a few blocks. Along the way, we pass One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial, Brookfield Place (an indoor shopping center), and the Irish Hunger Memorial.
We’ve now arrived at the Hudson River, which stretches along the west side of Manhattan. We have officially entered Rockefeller Park. Here, let’s briefly turn left and walk a short distance. There are two tall, narrow sculptural columns, titled Pylons, created by sculptor Martin Puryear. (Remember Martin Puryear? He created the wonderful elephant sculpture in Madison Square Park, shown in this previous blog post.)
As we look across the water, we spy the Statue of Liberty in the distance. A little to the right is the former immigration center turned historical site and museum, Ellis Island. And further in the distance, that’s New Jersey!
Turning back and walking in the other direction, we enter the main part of Rockefeller Park. First, we discover the lily pond, the sound of the small waterfall along its one side creating a sense of zen. It’s too late in the season for water lilies, but there are some wild Mallard ducks taking a swim.
Along the edge of the lily pond, we spot this poem by Mark Strand, “The Continuous Life”:
What of the neighborhood homes awash
In a silver light, of children hunched in the bushes,
Watching the grown-ups for signs of surrender,
Signs that the irregular pleasures of moving
From day to day, of being adrift on the swell of duty,
Have run their course? O parents, confess
To your little ones the night is a long way off
And your taste for the mundane grows; tell them
Your worship of household chores has barely begun;
Describe the beauty of shovels and rakes, brooms and mops;
Say there will always be cooking and cleaning to do,
That one thing leads to another, which leads to another;
Explain that you live between two great darks, the first
With an ending, the second without one, that the luckiest
Thing is having been born, that you live in a blur
Of hours and days, months and years, and believe
It has meaning, despite the occasional fear
You are slipping away with nothing completed, nothing
To prove you existed. Tell the children to come inside,
That your search goes on for something you lost—a name,
A family album that fell from its own small matter
Into another, a piece of the dark that might have been yours,
You don’t really know. Say that each of you tries
To keep busy, learning to lean down close and hear
The careless breathing of earth and feel its available
Languor come over you, wave after wave, sending
Small tremors of love through your brief,
Undeniable selves, into your days, and beyond.
As we walk further, there are some Canadian Geese gathered on the expansive green lawn. They are probably taking a break as they make their way south for the winter. On another day, we might see many other birds, but our focus today turns in a different direction.
Coming up, The Pavilion, by artist Demetri Porphyrios, is nearby. I always find its architectural details interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the site of weddings in warmer months.
We’re coming to my favorite part of the park – an enclosed area filled with bronze sculptures by Tom Otterness. Does the style seem familiar? I’ve written about other Tom Otterness sculptures, found in the 14th Street/8th Avenue subway station, here. You can choose to view these sculptures as whimsical, or look closer to find the darker commentary on the financial system. It’s up to you. Otterness titled this collection of sculptures The Real World. Some of the sculptures are in plain sight, while others take a little closer look to discover. Here are some examples of what we find.
I love how these sculptures invite visitors to interact with them. On a busier day, I can see children playing around them, people eating their lunches next to them. Today, we catch these two visitors looking at their cell phones, as they sit next to a phone sculpture!
We still aren’t done – there are autumn flowers in the gardens to enjoy. Let’s see what we discover there.
We’re reaching the far end of the park now. Ready to take a break? We can sit a while on these benches, maybe watching the anchored boats bob in the water, or read another chapter in the book we tucked into our bag. If we squint as we look into the distance, we might even catch a glimpse of the Empire State Building!
Well, our walk is at its end for today. Thank you for joining me!
Although today is not a Monday, I think this is a good walk for Jo’s Monday Walks. Have you checked out Jo’s blog? If you haven’t, I know you will enjoy it. Unfortunately, I don’t meet the January theme for Jude’s Garden Challenge, having discussed an Autumn garden instead of a Winter one, but her blog is definitely worth checking out as well!