Summer Flowers in Stuyvesant Square

Green space is highly prized in New York City, and as you travel south along Second Avenue towards the Lower East Side of Manhattan, you will come upon one of the jewels in the New York City park system: Stuyvesant Square. In 1836, the land for Stuyvesant Square was donated to the city by Peter Gerard Stuyvesant and his wife Helen Rutherford Stuyvesant to be made into park. The new park, ultimately named Stuyvesant Square, opened in 1850. Today, the park straddles Second Avenue, and both sides are equally lovely.

Despite the busyness of Second Avenue, the park itself is a peaceful destination, the perfect place to people watch or read a book while sitting on one of the park’s many shaded benches. There’s a large dog park as well, although on the day I visited it was so hot that there weren’t many dogs playing in that fenced area, and those who were there weren’t in the mood for a run.

The summer flowers drew me to the park this time. The colors were bright, with occasional buzzing bees stopping by.

The alium flowers, always among my favorite, were almost gone for the season – but even their dried brown stems and petals were appealing.

You’ll catch a glimpse of the nearby Fifteenth Street Quaker Meeting House and Friends Seminary, to the east, as well as the spires of St. George’s Episcopal Church.

There are also two statues in the park. The first is a statue of Peter Stuyvesant, the park donor’s ancestor. The original Peter Stuyvesant was Director of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, the predecessor to New York City, from 1647 to 1664. The sculptor was Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, an artist and art patron most commonly known for founding the Whitney Museum. You’ll find the statue of Peter Stuyvesant in the part of the park located west of Second Avenue.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of the park’s other sculpture, a three-quarters’ perspective of Czech composer Antonin Dvorak located on the park’s northeast side. Dvorak lived in the neighborhood next to Stuyvesant Square for a few years while he served as Director of the National Conservatory of Music in America. The sculptor of this work was Croatian-American artist Ivan Mestrovic. (Since I missed this one, you can find a photo of the Dvorak sculpture here.)

Want to spend a little time in this park yourself? You will find Stuyvesant Square on Second Avenue between 15th and 17th Streets. It’s a short distance from the L train’s 3rd Avenue station, or you can take the the 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R, or W trains to 14th Street-Union Square, and then walk east a few blocks.

Central Park’s Conservatory Garden in the Spring

This is a post that is almost out of season (after all, Spring is over in a matter of days), but my busy schedule during this past semester meant that I never posted about a delightful walk I took several weeks ago in Central Park. Before we turn to Summer I thought I would revisit it, bringing you along with me this time.

One thing I love about Central Park is its vast size – if I fancy a long trek, I can explore for hours. If I have the time, I won’t start at the southern end of the park, at 59th Street. That part of the park is too busy, too close to hotels and tourist attractions. Most tourists travel only so far into the park, making those southern paths crowded in good weather. Often, I’m in the mood for a more introspective walk and seek the quiet of the park’s northern end instead. Today, we have the time so let’s head north. Let’s start with the Conservatory Garden, which we last explored in Autumn.

The Conservatory Garden in Spring is a feast for the eyes. After the cold dreariness of Winter, the greens appear more vibrant. Leaves are unfolding on the trees, each variety a slightly different shade. The yew tips are a bright chartreuse, in contrast with the darker old growth. The varying greens provide a backdrop for the Spring blooms we’ll discover along our way, some delicate, even tiny, while others bold and bright.

First we come to the lavender-tinged wisteria pergola, with the yew shrubs fanned out below.

To either side of the pergola stretch espalier trees, their twisted trunks and branches stretched across brick walls.

But now we’re on a search for flowers. Let’s see what we discover along the way. I’m not sure what these are, but I enjoyed the tight buds and pure white petals.

Here’s some just-blooming azaleas, their magenta flecks reminding me somehow of freckles.

And some Delaware Valley white azaleas, as well.

On to more flowers. We find daffodils.

Bright orange tulips.

Entire beds of tulips bordered by grape hyacinth, a riot of colors. Upon closer inspection, the tulips show the effects of the elements, but from a distance they are still glorious.

Here’s a favorite of mine, the lilacs. The sweet fragrance brings back memories of childhood, when we had lilacs of every color – white, pale lavender, and darker purple. I stop, remembering those simple days when my sister and I played outside next to the lilacs for hours, decorating our dolls and mud-pies with the flowers. Are you breathing in the scent with me?

Now on to another of my favorite, the alium or ornamental onion. These are in various stages of bloom, making them very interesting indeed.

How about a few more? Some delicate Siberian Bugloss peaking up through the leaves.

And the cushion spurge, its bright yellow flowers almost glowing.

Let’s step out of the Conservatory Garden and take a stroll towards the Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy Reservoir. There are few flowers along this route, and we have to dodge cyclists and runners periodically, but it is a peaceful, overcast day. There are some trees blooming in the distance to admire along the way.

Soon we reach the reservoir and are standing on the edge of the one-way path around its waters. What beautiful views! Look closely – there are some Japanese cherry trees blooming on the other side, and we have some impressive perspectives of the city skyline, looking first westward to the Upper West Side and then south towards Midtown.

Finally, as we head to one of the paths leading out of Central Park, we stumble upon this monument to former New York City Mayor John Purroy Mitchel. Curious as to why Mitchel, among so many mayors in the city’s history, had been honored with a monument, I did a little research. I discovered that Mitchel served as mayor from 1914 to 1917 and was the youngest mayor in the city’s history when elected at age 34. In a time of rampant corruption in city politics, Mitchel gained a reputation for being a reformer. Once the United States entered the First World War, Mitchel enlisted in the Army Air Corps. (He had just lost his reelection bid.) Unfortunately, Mitchel was killed in a tragic training accident in Louisiana in 1918 – he fell from his plane to the ground some 500 feet below.

And with that brief history lesson, our exploration is over for the day. I think this walk is a good one for Jo’s Monday Walks, don’t you? If you have checked out Jo’s blog, I recommend it!

Albert Capsouto Park

Nestled in the Manhattan neighborhood of Tribeca is a small, triangular green space named Albert Capsouto Park. This park is a recent addition to the NYC park system, having opened in 2009. Despite its short history and limited size, the park has already changed names once and offers several special features.

First, the name change. When the park first opened in 2009, it was known as CaVaLa Park. The unusual name came from the park’s location, as the park’s three sides are bordered by Canal Street, Varick Street, and Laight Street. If you look closely as you explore the park, you will find the dedication plaque with the park’s original name.

In 2010, the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation renamed the park in memory of local restaurant owner Albert Capsouto, who was known for his efforts to obtain financial support for small businesses in the area after the September 11 attacks. (The park is less than a mile from the World Trade Center site, and local businesses experienced significant economic challenges in the aftermath of the tragedy.)

Now for the park’s interesting details. My favorite details are found on the large granite posts next to each of the park’s three entrances. The park’s designers installed a series of etched steel plates highlighting historical images and maps of the neighborhood around the park. (Original images are part of the collections of the New York Historical Society, New York Public Library, and the Library of Congress.)  Here are few examples of those images, which illustrate the evolution of Tribeca.

As you enter the park, you will immediately notice another feature – a long sculpture/fountain (depending on the time of year) that stretches for 114 feet. The sculptural fountain was created by NYC artist Elyn Zimmerman, and draws inspiration from the canal that used to stretch along what is now Canal Street. When I visited, the Parks Department had not yet turned the water on for Spring, but it is even more beautiful when the fountain is running. (Although there was a little standing water because of a recent rainfall, so you get a little sense of what the fountain is like when it’s running.)

And nearby there are benches and these tables, perfect for picnicking or a game of checkers or chess! (In case you can’t tell from the photo, each table has a checkerboard built in.)

Want to visit Albert Capsouto Park yourself? Take the 1, A, C, or E trains to their respective Canal Street stations. The park is just a short distance away.

A Winter Walk Through Riverside Park

During the winter, we spend so much time inside avoiding the cold weather, but this year New York City’s winter has been relatively mild. (At least until this week – right now it’s bitter cold, and we have a chance of a late blizzard on Tuesday with 12 to 18 inches of snow!) When the weather cooperates, I try to get outside as much as possible. Recently, we’ve had some really nice days, and I decided to head to a park to take a long walk. Although many people think of Central Park in Manhattan – or maybe Prospect Park in Brooklyn – when they consider New York City parks, there are many other beautiful parks. This time, I chose Riverside Park on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Riverside Park is a great choice for a long walk. The park is long and narrow, stretching along the Hudson River from 129th Street to 72 Street. There are paved trails that undulate through the trees, giving visitors multiple options and views. There are also a number of children’s playgrounds and a skate park for skateboarders. You’ll also see public monuments and sculptures  dotting the landscape periodically. (Note: These monuments follow no coherent theme, which somehow makes discovering each one even more interesting!) Because of its location, you won’t see nearly as many tourists as you’ll find in Central Park. Riverside Park is truly a neighborhood park, and you’ll see people walking their dogs, teaching their children to ride bicycles, or jogging.

Today, we are on a hunt for public monuments. Let’s see what we find as we walk almost 60 city blocks from end to end. One of the first things we come across is the General Grant National Memorial, the tomb where Civil War general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant is buried. (We previously visited the Grant Memorial, and you can find pictures of the interior here.) We’re approaching Grant Memorial from the back side, but we’ll turn around and look at it again from the front once we go by. In the background, there’s the tower of the Riverside Church. We’ll visit it another time.

As we continue to approach Grant Memorial, I realize that the black iron fence above encloses a tree and this plaque. Here’s what the inscription says:

This tree is planted at the side of the tomb of General U.S. Grant, ex-President of the United States of America, for the purpose of commemorating his greatness by Li Hung-Chang, Guardian of the Prince, Grand Secretary of State, Earl of the First Order, Yang Yu, Envoy Extraordinary and Minter Plenipotentiary of China, Vice President of the Board of Censors, Kwang Hsu, 23rd Year, 4th Moon, May 1897.

One last view of Grant’s Memorial before we move on, as well as a photo of one of the eagles guarding the entrance:

As we continue walking, we’ll start seeing more monuments – although none are on the scale of the Grant Memorial. At 116th Street and Riverside Drive, we find this monument erected by the Women’s Health Protective Association, which was celebrating its 25th anniversary in 1909. The monument was sculpted by Bruno Louis Zimm, and it contains a drinking fountain that can be used in warmer months.

At 113th Street we notice this monument to Louis Kossuth, a key figure in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. As I researched more about this monument, I learned that it was financed by Hungarian Americans living in New York City and was originally dedicated in 1928. Unfortunately, the original monument was poorly constructed, and it had to be redone only two years later. It’s a striking monument, with Kossuth looming over a soldier and peasant below.

Next to Kossuth’s monument is this simple, modern monument to the participants in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against that nation’s Communist government. This monument was erected only last year by the Hungarian American Memorial Committee, in honor of the 60th anniversary of the uprising, and the designer was Hungarian architect Tamás Nagy.

The round concrete platform seen above is really special. The caption reads: “Constellation of stars as symbols of hope, visible in the night sky over Budapest on October 23, 1956, when the first shots of the Revolution were fired.” (Although one news story about the monument stated that the sky was actually overcast on that night in 1956, and therefore the stars would not have actually been visible to the revolutionaries.)

Only a block further, we find this statue of Samuel J. Tilden, a governor of the State of New York during the 19th Century. Tilden’s statue was sculpted by William Ordway Partridge. (Tilden also ran for President in 1876. He won the popular vote but lost the electoral college by one vote!)

We continue walking. At 106th Street and Riverside Drive, we see a statue of General Franz Sigel. The statue’s sculptor was Karl Bitter. In my research, I found that Sigel had an interesting life. Sigel, who was born in Baden in modern Germany, fled his home country after leading an unsuccessful revolution in 1848. Eventually, Sigel came to New York City, where he was a teacher, journalist, and co-founder of the German-American Institute. Later, Sigel moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he served in the Union Army and helped protect Missouri from Confederate attack. By the end of the war, he had been promoted to Major General. After the Civil War ended, Sigel moved back to New York City and lived here until his death in 1904, serving as editor of two periodicals. I liked this photo of Sigel’s statue, but particularly the second view of his horse.

At 100th Street, we stumble upon the Firemen’s Memorial, which was dedicated in 1913. H. Van Buren Magonigle designed the monument, and artist Attilio Piccirilli created the sculptures. (The statues on either end of the monument are named “Duty” and “Sacrifice.” At the base of the monument, there is also a memorial tablet to the horses who pulled the early fire engines.

One of my favorite statues is found at 93rd Street and Riverside Drive: Joan of Arc, dedicated in 1915. Unusual for the time period, the statue is the work of a woman artist, Anna Hyatt Huntington. It’s striking from any angle.

Just four blocks south of Joan of Arc is the second largest monument in the park: the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, designed by sculptor Paul E. Duboy and architects Charles and Arthur Stoughton. Dedicated in 1902, the monument honored soldiers and sailors who fought in the Civil War.

Finally, at 76th Street and Riverside Drive, we discover the Robert Ray Hamilton Fountain. The fountain, which was designed by architectural firm Warren & Wetmore (more famous for Grand Central Terminal), was dedicated in 1906. Two things in particular make the fountain interesting. First, the fountain was intended to be a drinking fountain – for horses. And second, Robert Ray Hamilton was a great-grandson of the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, Alexander Hamilton.

Well, that’s the end of today’s walk. For those who wish to visit Riverside Park in person, the closest subway lines are the 1, 2, and 3 lines. Just get off at stops between 72nd and 125th Streets, and then it’s just a short walk west to the park. (Note: Not all trains stop at every station.) If you want to see the monuments I’ve featured here, stay on the path than runs parallel to Riverside Drive, as most monuments are located along the edge of the park or in park medians that divide the roadway at various points.

Although it’s not Monday yet in the United States, it’s Monday elsewhere at this point – and so 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.

Views of New York City on a Foggy Night

My first Finding NYC blog post, more than one and a half years ago, showed some of my favorite photos of the New York City skyline. (You can find that post here.) One of the best views of Manhattan is from Gantry Plaza State Park, along the East River in Long Island City, Queens. The park is a wonderful place to watch the sun set over the city, and the city lights at night can be magical.

Last night we went to a restaurant not far from the waterfront, and afterwards we walked down to the park to view the city. The clouds were coming in, and fog was descending. It certainly was a different view than usual! Still, even without being able to see the skyline, the city was beautiful. Would you have guessed that this is New York City?

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This was definitely not the night to use the viewers – as demonstrated by my wife! Regardless, we had fun. And on a night like this, we had the park to ourselves.

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The fog was not so thick that we didn’t spy the Queensboro Bridge in the distance. This is one bridge that looks better at night, when the bridge’s structure is less visible.

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There are always the views of Long Island City and the gantry cranes – the fog had not obscured them yet.

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Or how about this view of the Hunter’s Point Library construction site, with its unique architectural design by architect Steven Holl? I can’t wait to see the library once it’s finished!

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Here’s another close-up view. Doesn’t it look intriguing?

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Finally, a photo of the vintage Pepsi sign. Even with some of the neon tubes unlit, the sign still glows brightly in the dark.

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(If you want to visit Gantry Plaza State Park yourself, the directions are found here, in my earlier Manhattan skyline post.)

A Hidden Treasure: The First Street Garden

Tucked in between two buildings on First Street on the Lower East Side is a hidden treasure: the First Street Garden. A community garden supported by the Lower East Side Girls Club, the garden is only open limited hours – but it is still worth walking by, even if you have to peep between the metal fence rails. One sign explains that the Garden was created and maintained by volunteers working with GreenThumb, an almost 40 year old NYC Parks initiative that “helps local residents transform vacant properties into attractive green spaces.”

One of the reasons why the First Street Garden is so special is that a series of murals of “women who have changed the world” have been painted on the walls on either side of the space. There’s this mural of the late journalist and social justice advocate Dorothy Day. The banner above her head reads, “All of our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy rotten system,” a quote often attributed to Day but likely not something she actually said.

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Next to her is a portrait of Sojourner Truth, a 19th-century abolitionist and woman’s rights advocate.

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The gate was locked on the day that I visited, but I still spied these murals of Rosa Parks, known for her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956, and Shirley Chisolm, a New Yorker who became the first African-American woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. (Further down the wall was Susan B. Anthony as well.)

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I also noticed this small mural of Ella Baker, a civil rights activist and human rights activist. There are numerous other small murals as well, certainly worth exploring further when the gate is unlocked.

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As one sign on the wall indicated, the Garden’s participants are also engaged in an experiment in sustainable design, and bamboo and recycled materials have been used to build some interesting structures. In warmer weather, the Garden would be a wonderful place to relax and read a book for a while.

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Want to visit the First Street Garden yourself? It is located on First Street between First and Second Avenues. The closest subway station is the Second Street station, which is accessible from the F train. (Additionally, an access point for the First Street Green Cultural Park is located just down the street from the First Street Garden. You’ll always find original, fresh street art there.) According to the sign on the gate, the garden is open on Friday afternoons, 4:00-6:00 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4:00 pm.

Take a Stroll with Me Through Rockefeller Park

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.)

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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We still aren’t done – there are autumn flowers in the gardens to enjoy. Let’s see what we discover there.

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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!

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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!

Keith Haring Sculptures near Battery Park

There’s so much to see in Battery Park that visitors may not realize the other treasures that are located nearby. Once you start exploring the surrounding streets, however, you will find all sorts of delights. Across the street from the park, at 17 State Street, there are two large, brightly-painted aluminum sculptures by famous New York City artist Keith Haring. Haring’s work is very distinctive, making it easy to identify. These two pieces are titled Untitled (Two Dancing Figures) and Untitled (Figure Balancing on Dog). It’s interesting to view the sculptures from various perspectives, as you notice different details.

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Want more information about the sculptures and Keith Haring’s tragically short artistic career. The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council has this description on their website. If you’d like to see the sculptures firsthand, take the 4 or 5 train to the Bowling Green station, the J or Z trains to the Broad Street station, the R train to Whitehall Street station, or the 1 train to South Ferry (make sure you are on one of the first five cars for the 1 train).

Central Park’s North End

As much as I love the city, sometimes I need to spend some time in a quieter, slower green space (especially during stressful times like it’s been recently here). Thankfully, that’s possible to find even in the midst of the city. There are some great parks throughout the city, but last weekend I wanted to see if the leaves were changing in Central Park. Most people who visit Central Park visit the southern end of the park (and I’ve previously written about that part of the park here), but the northern end is a hidden gem. That’s where we decided to head this time.

Central Park stretches from 59th Street all the way to 110th Street, and we headed towards the entrance to the park at 105th Street and Fifth Avenue, on the east side of the park. Here, visitors can walk through the Vanderbilt Gate into the Conservatory Garden, one of my favorite sections of Central Park.

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Even though it is Autumn, the conservatory garden still offers a variety of colorful flowers – all with a fall vibe.

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And there are also two special fountains located at opposite parts of the garden. First, there’s this delightful fountain, known as the Burnett Fountain, which can be found in the South Garden. The fountain is a tribute to children’s book author Frances Hodgson Burnett and is surrounded by a lily pond.

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In the North Garden there’s also this vibrant, joyful fountain, known as the Untermyer Fountain.

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Throughout all of Central Park, including the Conservatory Garden, you can find benches where you can sit and take a break. They are great locations for people-watching (and dog-watching, as many locals walk their dogs in Central Park). Many of the benches have been sponsored, and small plaques give information about the sponsorship. (In fact, there’s an entire Instagram account dedicated entirely to sponsored benches: @centralparkbenches)

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The formality of the Conservatory Gardens is restful and appeals to my orderly mind, but the walk doesn’t have to end there. If you continue further north, you will soon stumble upon the Harlem Meer. Across the water sits the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, which offers a variety of special park programming.

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After meandering around the Harlem Meer, if you keep walking you can explore the shaded North Woods. This is one of the hillier parts of the parks, and it periodically offers small clearings with rocks, fallen trees, or benches to rest on. Eventually, you’ll crest the top of the Great Hill, an open area where local New Yorkers play a variety of sports. It’s fun to sit and people watch, and through the trees it’s possible to spy some of the iconic apartment buildings on the city’s Upper West Side. Continue along the path traveling south once again, and there are more waterways, quaint wooden bridges and benches, and fall foliage.

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I think this post would be a good one for Jo’s Monday Walks. If you haven’t checked out Jo’s blog, I recommend it!

Hidden Treasures of Roosevelt Island: Smallpox Hospital and Four Freedoms Park

In the middle of the East River between Manhattan and Queens is Roosevelt Island, with the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge stretching overhead. Most people never visit Roosevelt Island, unless they happen to take a trip on the Roosevelt Island Tram. (Riding the F train when it stops at the Roosevelt Island station doesn’t count!) But it’s definitely worth taking the time to explore Roosevelt Island further. Today, I thought I’d focus on the hidden treasures found on the south end of the island: the ruins of the Smallpox Hospital and Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park.

The Smallpox Hospital ruins capture the imagination. The original building was designed by architect James Renwick, Jr. and completed in 1856, when Roosevelt Island was still known as Blackwell’s Island. It is an example of Gothic Revival architecture. Renwick is more commonly known for other Gothic Revival designs in New York City, including Grace Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The building had a short life treating smallpox patients before becoming part of the City Hospital complex on the island. In the 1950s, City Hospital moved to Queens, and the Smallpox Hospital, which also became known as the Renwick Ruins, was abandoned. It’s continued to deteriorate since.

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In 1972, the Smallpox Hospital was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it has also been designated a New York City landmark. Because the building is in poor condition, there are fences preventing public access. In places, you can see the steel scaffolding that has been used to stabilize the remaining walls.

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Just past the Smallpox Hospital ruins you will spy Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, which was designed by famous architect Louis I. Kahn. The park’s name comes from President Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union address, where he identified four key freedoms: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. Here is what the park looks like from the entry.

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Continue walking along the path on either side of the elevated portion of the park, towards the southern tip of the island.

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If looking west, towards Manhattan, here is your view.

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On the other hand, if looking east, towards Queens, you have this view of Long Island City and the iconic neon Pepsi sign.

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Looking back from the other end of the elevated park, there is this perspective. The shaded grass makes a relaxing location for a break or enjoying a picnic.

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At the very tip of the park is a giant block of granite. One side hosts this giant bronze bust of President Roosevelt, while the opposite has the relevant words from his Four Freedoms address.

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Finally, far off in the distance, you will also have a (usually hazy) view of the Williamsburg Bridge.

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There are two main ways to get to Roosevelt Island by public transportation. If traveling by subway, take the F train to the Roosevelt Island station. You can also travel from Manhattan using the Roosevelt Island Tram, which I previously wrote about here. Once you get off of the tram, face towards Manhattan. You will be walking to the end of the island on your left (the south end of the island). It’s about a 15 minute walk to the Smallpox Hospital ruins and Four Freedoms Park, with plenty of scenic views of New York City along the way. There’s a paved walkway along the river, and you will also pass through Southpoint Park along the way.