Hunting a City-wide Art Installation: Ai Weiwei’s Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Imagine an art installation with more than 300 separate pieces, scattered throughout all five boroughs of New York City. The scale seems almost impossible, but that is exactly what Chinese-born artist Ai Weiwei has accomplished with his new exhibition, Good Fences Make Good Neighbors. The exhibition, which is sponsored by Public Art Fund, draws its title from the line of the Robert Frost poem, “Mending Wall.” Ai Weiwei uses his art to draw attention to the plight of the millions of refugees around the world seeking shelter from violence in refugee camps and through immigration. Some of the sites symbolize the types of barriers that exist for refugees, while others personalize refugees’ experiences. Some are constructed of heavy, cold metals; others of flimsy panels that are moved by the breeze. It’s a rich treasure trove to discover, if one is persistent and has some endurance.

Because of the scope of the exhibition, I’ve focused my attentions so far on Manhattan, where the largest number of sites are located. Over the course of two days I walked more than 15 miles, scouring neighborhood after neighborhood: the Lower East Side; the Financial District near the World Trade Center site; Greenwich Village and Washington Square Park; the Flatiron District; Midtown and the southeast corner of Central Park; the Upper East Side; and East Harlem. During my walks, I found numerous parts of the exhibition, usually with the help of this online map, but I have so many more that I want to discover. I guess it’s a good thing that the exhibition continues through February 11, 2018. Each piece I found added another nuance to my understanding of the whole, and it was just as delightful to find a small banner as it was to see a large installation.

So let me give you a visual sense of the exhibition, starting with the larger, metal structures. My favorite of these is Gilded Cage, located on the southeast corner of Central Park. When I clicked on this site on the map, I found this explanation of Gilded Cage:

For the entrance to Central Park, Ai has created a giant gilded cage that simultaneously evokes the luxury of Fifth Avenue and the privations of confinement. Visitors are able to enter its central space, which is surrounded by bars and turnstiles. Functioning as a structure of both control and display, the work reveals the complex power dynamics of repressive architecture.

From the outside, Gilded Cage looks like this:

From the inside, the view depends on where you look. The installation very much feels like a cage, as you can tell from this photo (and makes a good backdrop for personal photos as well).

But when you look up, the view is different, with the open design at the top somehow giving me a sense of hope, an alternative perspective of the problem.

Then there is this 37-foot tall structure, titled Arch, placed in the center of the Washington Square arch.

Or how about Five Fences, with each “fence” covering a window of the Cooper Union building near Astor Place.

There are smaller structures built around certain bus shelters, less imposing, like the one visible here.

There are also Greek-style friezes and photos on advertising platforms around the city, but my favorite parts of the exhibition are among the more than 200 banners attached to lampposts around the city. Each one has an image from a different photograph, historical and modern, of immigrant and refugees. The online map provides more information about when and where each banner photo was taken, but I’m going to focus on the images on the banners in my photos below. These photos also show the interesting contrasts you’ll sometimes see between banners and nearby buildings, as well as the challenges associated with finding and photographing banners among the trees. The images are reach, showing the full range of human emotions.

For my last photos, I’ll show you the banners at the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side. These banners are attached to the side of the building and are in stark contrast to the vibrant mural painted below. If you look closely at the banners, you can see a scene of refugees attempting to make their way to safety.

A final note: One of the benefits of writing this blog over the past couple of years is that I’ve had the opportunity to read many other blogs as well, and in the process of made some blogging friends around the world. Today’s post is dedicated to two of those blogging friends. First, to Meg, an Australian who writes the blog snippetsandsnaps ~ Potato Point and Beyond. Meg celebrated a birthday last week, and I want to wish her a happy birthday! She recently read a NY Times article about the subject of this post and has been patiently waiting for me to get my post up. Second, to Jo, an Englishwoman with Polish roots who craves the sun of the Portuguese Algarve region. Jo writes a wonderful blog called Restless Jo and hosts the weekly Jo’s Monday Walks. Since I walked so many miles on my hunt for Ai Weiwei’s installations, I will offer this post for next week’s Monday Walk as well. So here’s a blog toast to two blogging friends, Meg and Jo!

A Leisurely Sunday Stroll through Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery

As Halloween is fast approaching I thought I would take you on a leisurely Sunday stroll through Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery. Cemeteries often have the reputation of being spooky or haunted, and Green-Wood likely has it’s share of ghosts, but it’s a lovely, serene place for an afternoon walk.

Founded in 1838, Green-Wood Cemetery is a National Historic Landmark, not only because of its longstanding role as one of the city’s cemeteries but also its status as the site of a major Revolutionary War battlefield, the Battle of Long Island. In the 19th century, New York City residents would pack picnic lunches and spend weekend afternoons wandering the cemetery’s park-like grounds. In fact, in the second half of the 19th century, as many as half a million people a year visited the cemetery. Today, it is still a great place to spend an afternoon. The cemetery is large, encompassing 478 acres (1.9 square kilometers). I spent almost five hours meandering along the paths among the graves and still did not see the entire cemetery. (More than 500,000 people are buried in the cemetery, just to give you a full sense of its magnitude.)

The grandest entrance to the cemetery is this Gothic Revival structure on the northern side, accessible from Brooklyn’s Fifth Avenue. The gate was built in the 1860s.

A closer view shows detailed religious carvings above each entryway. The gate above was designed by Richard Upjohn, while the carvings were by John M. Moffitt.

Throughout the cemetery we come across many mausoleums – in fact, Green-Wood Cemetery has one of the largest collections of mausoleums in the United States. They represent a range of architectural styles and tastes, and many offer beautiful details as well. Here is just a sampling of what we discover.

Here’s my favorite mausoleum, an Egyptian-inspired pyramid with statues of Mary and Jesus, a male Catholic saint (anyone know who it is?), and a sphinx.

Then there were the monuments and memorials. First, there was this one to DeWitt Clinton, former governor of the state of New York in the 19th century and credited with building the Erie Canal.

There’s this Revolutionary War monument by sculpture Frederick Ruckstull titled Altar to Liberty: Minerva.

Or how about this monument dedicated to New York City soldiers and sailors who fought in the U.S. Civil War? It has some beautiful details.

Then I found this simple memorial with a tragic story I hadn’t hear before. In 1876, a fire at the Brooklyn Theater killed at least 278 people, although some accounts say that the number was closer to 300. This monument marks the common grave of the 103 victims who were never identified.

There are so many more to discover but I will show this one last one, a bronze statue by sculptor John Coleman titled “The Greeter,” which marks the grave of 19th-century artist George Catlin. Catlin was most famous for his depictions of the American West and Native American culture.

Green-Wood Cemetery is home to the graves of numerous famous people, but my favorites were some of the most simple. Here is composer Leonard Bernstein’s grave, among the most humble I saw in the cemetery. Visitors have left the small stones on his grave in his memory.

And here is the grave of Louis Comfort Tiffany, most known for his stained glass windows and other glass art. (As you can see, he outlived two wives.)

Although I’m not the biggest baseball fan, I loved the gravestone of Henry Chadwick, known as the father of baseball. Visitors had also left offerings at his grave, this time baseballs that are now in various states of deterioration, and there was a giant stone baseball on top of the pillar. (I felt a little sad for Chadwick’s wife, the former Jane Botts, who had to share this monument rather than having something that celebrated her life independent of her husband’s.)

I found graves of two founders of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They are significantly different from each other. My favorite of the two was this one, James M. Hart’s.

Here’s a close-up view of the decorative plaque.

The other one is Henry Bergh’s another pyramid with an interesting sculpture by Wilhelm Hunt Diederich and John Terken titled “Humility of Man Before a Group of Ageless Animals.”

The cemetery grounds have gentle hills, providing ample opportunity to stretch my legs. At the top of one, I caught this view of the Manhattan skyline, a little hazy in the distance.

Not far from this spot, I found these flowers laying on a park bench. A small plaque on the bench had this poignant inscription: In loving memory of our mummy, Ranjani, 1952-2011.

On one hill is this unusual art installation by Sophie Calle, titled “Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery.” Visitors are invited to write their secrets on sheets of paper and insert them into the slot on the obelisk. Calle will return to the cemetery periodically over the next 25 years to remove the secrets and “cremate” them in ceremonial bonfires. The art installation is unexpected in the middle of a cemetery.

Now I think we’ll wander further, admiring some of the other statues and gravestone throughout the cemetery.

And finally, we’ll stop by the chapel, which was completed in 1911.

The chapel’s interior is small but intricately decorated, with beautiful stained glass windows.

Want to visit Green-Wood Cemetery yourself? You will find directions on the cemetery’s website, here. If you wish to tour the cemetery on your own, you can pick up free maps at the entrance. The cemetery also offers ticketed trolley tours on Wednesdays and Sundays. You can find more information about the tours here.

I think this would be another good post for Jo’s Monday Walks. Have you checked out Jo’s blog? I recommend it!

Socrates Sculpture Park: Nari Ward Exhibition

We’ve visited the Socrates Sculpture Park before, quite some time ago (you can find that post here), but I kept seeing photos of the summer exhibition on social media and had to get there before it ended. For the first time in its history, the park hosted an exhibition featuring a single artist, Nari Ward. Ward was born in Jamaica but currently makes his home in New York City. The exhibition, titled Nari Ward: G.O.A.T., again, was both challenging and intriguing.

One of the things that makes this exhibition unique is that the art was created on site. As visitors roamed around the park, the most common features of the exhibition were the concrete goats. The park’s website contains this explanation of the exhibition’s name and the artist’s use of goats to convey his message:

Nari Ward: G.O.A.T., again examines how hubris creates misplaced expectations in American cultural politics. … G.O.A.T. is an acronym for Greatest of All Time, a phrase commonly used in American sports, made famous by Muhammad Ali, and in hip-hop, most notably, as the title of Queens native LL Cool J’s best-selling album. The title alludes to the African-American experience and political theater – common themes in Ward’s work.

The figure of the goat features prominently in Nari Ward: G.O.A.T., again as the artist’s articulation of social dynamics, conjuring the animal’s attributes and symbolic connotations, from an ambitious climber of great heights to an outcast. A flock of goats cast from lawn ornaments traverse the landscape, both in groups and as solitary individuals, manifesting the show’s title. The appropriation of the word goat, turning an insult into a moniker for excellence, demonstrates the power of wordplay, while the modifier again implies historical repetition. Scapegoat, a forty-foot long hobby toy further develops the goat metaphor and highlights another strand of the show: the satirization of virility, masculinity, and monument.

Intrigued about these goats? Here are some photos of the exhibition. It had rained heavily the day before our visit, hence the puddles, but there were plenty of dry spots to walk on.

The exhibition also included a piece titled, “Apollo/Poll.” Here’s a description of the piece from the park’s website, as well as a photo of what it looked like.

The visual anchor of the show is Apollo/Poll, a towering sign that reads ‘APOLLO’, the letters ‘A’ and ‘O’ blinking on and off to spell out “POLL.” The red LED-lit letters echo that of the iconic neon beacon hanging over Harlem’s Apollo Theater, a renowned venue for African American musicians and entertainers. Ward imagines the sign as a reflection on the enterprise and art of self-promotion, performance, originality, and the meaning of communal acceptance.

But the Nari Ward exhibition was not the only thing I found in the park. There were also these examples of community art projects, although I couldn’t find specific explanations of them.

And there was also this discovery, a free mini-library. Visitors were invited to take a book or leave a book at the site.

This exhibition has now ended, but another great exhibition has recently opened. If you’d like to visit the park, you can find directions here on the park’s website.

A Late Summer’s Day in Washington Square Park

Summer’s gone, but the memories remain. Here’s a glimpse of a late summer day in Washington Square Park. The park is a hub of activity, drawing local city residents, tourists, and students from nearby New York University. Whether you wish to people-watch, hear some music, or watch some performance art, there’s always something for everyone – regardless of the season.

 

 

Want to visit Washington Square Park? The West 14th Street subway station is only a couple of blocks away to the west, accessible by the A, B, C, D, E, F, and M trains, or you can take the R or W trains to the 8th Street station and then walk to the southwest.

A Saturday Stroll at Wave Hill

I’ve titled this post “A Saturday Stroll,” but it took a little more effort to get to our destination, Wave Hill. We decided on Saturday to go somewhere we’ve never been before, but we didn’t want to travel too far. Ultimately, we set our sights on Wave Hill. Wave Hill is a public garden located in the Bronx community of Riverdale. Although it is located in New York City, it is not directly accessible by subway. Instead, we set out on the Metro North Railroad. If I’d read Wave Hill’s website carefully, we would have known that a shuttle van picks visitors up at the train station; instead, we walked to the garden’s entrance. It was a fairly steep uphill trek of a little over half a mile – although doable, I’d likely wait for the shuttle on a return visit. The road was narrow, and much of it didn’t have sidewalks.

Our uphill efforts were rewarded when we arrived at Wave Hill’s entrance. The gardens are beautiful! Wave Hill started out as a wealthy family’s private home, and it has an interesting history. As a child, Theodore Roosevelt stayed at Wave Hill with his family, and later the famous American author Mark Twain leased the estate. In 1960, the owners deeded Wave Hill to the city, and it eventually opened as a public garden and cultural center.

Almost immediately we came across the flower gardens, which are beautiful at this time of year. The vibrant colors were the first things that drew my attention, but then I noticed the butterflies! There were gorgeous Monarch butterflies everywhere I looked. I can’t even count the number of butterfly photographs I took while we were there, but it was a wonderful experience to see them.

The was such a variety of flowers blooming, and plenty of bees collecting pollen as well. If you enjoy macro photography, this is the place for you.

Nearby, we found the greenhouses. More treasures are located inside, particularly cacti and succulents.

We meander down various paths to other parts of the gardens. Dodging a water sprinkler, we arrive at the arbors. Although I expected to see grape vines, I was fascinated to find squash and gourds hanging from above as well.

Let’s explore further. At the end of another path we found Wave Hill House, the estate’s former mansion, now home to the cafe.

There were paths to walk through the shaded woods. Along the edge of the woods stood these evergreen trees, showcasing the range of colors and textures provided by nature. There were so many shades of green!

Coming through on the other side of the shaded woods, we climbed back up the hill to experience the views of the Hudson River and steep cliffs of the Palisades in New Jersey. Across the wide expanse of lawn we discover pairs of wooden chairs, perfectly situated to appreciate the gardens and river views. We had to stop for a while and take everything in.

Just when we thought we had exhausted all paths, we discovered Glyndor House, another large house on the property that is now home to the Glyndor Gallery. The current exhibition is titled “Call and Response,” and includes art responsive to the gallery’s location in the midst of Wave Hill. Here are just a few of the art installations we enjoyed at the Glyndor Gallery.

Lynn Koble, Tell-Tale, 2017
Daniel A. Bruce, Wanderfolk Whirligig, Fall, Winter, Summer, Spring, 2017
Steven Millar, Many-eyed object, 2017
Tai Hwa Guo, The Floristry in Wave Hill, 2017

 

Jung Eun Park, Denizens, 2017
Amie Cunat, Arbor in Tar and Charcoal Gray, 2017

From there it was time to take our walk back to the train station. This time, the walk went much quicker, as it was all downhill.

Want to visit Wave Hill and see the gardens for yourself? If traveling by public transportation, you’ll be glad to know that I discovered (after our trip, of course) that Wave Hill runs a free shuttle van between the gardens and the train station, as well as to the West 242nd Street subway station (1 train). Details about travel to Wave Hill, as well as directions for those traveling by car, are available here.

I think our stroll at Wave Hill is a good one for Jo’s Monday Walks. Have you checked out Jo’s blog? I recommend it!

Exploring Elizabeth Street Garden: Nolita’s Little Gem

Throughout the summer and early Fall I’ve tried to stay outside as much as possible, and New York City has offered up many treasures for me to explore further. One of my favorites is the Elizabeth Street Garden. The Elizabeth Street Garden is unique. I’ve found many beautiful gardens in the city’s public park system, and others that are local community gardens. But the Elizabeth Street Garden is of a different type altogether. Although there are many trees, shrubs, and flowers throughout the garden, the main draw is the sculptures and other architectural details salvaged from torn-down buildings over the years. (Some are evidently reproductions as well.)

The site of the Elizabeth Street Garden has a long history as a public space, tracing back almost 200 years to its time as a public school’s open space. Eventually, the school closed and apartments and other businesses were constructed on the school property, but the open space remained. The property became overgrown, and in 1990 the owner of the Elizabeth Street Gallery leased the space and began using it to display some of the gallery’s sculptures. The garden became a beautifully landscaped space, and it was eventually open to the public during limited hours. Unfortunately, in the past few years local residents have learned of the lot’s inclusion in an urban development plan. The garden’s supporters have organized to find a way to protect the garden for the future, but if something doesn’t change the space will likely become a housing development for senior citizens on limited incomes.

The garden is a magical place, a little wild and eclectic. There’s something delightful to see anywhere you look, and plenty of places to sit down in the shade or sun, depending on your preferences, and enjoy the sights, eat a picnic lunch, or read a book. The Elizabeth Street Garden is a neighborhood space. You’ll find parents pushing their babies in strollers, employees of nearby businesses taking their lunch break, and the occasional wanderer (like me) seeking a peaceful oasis in the middle of the city.

If you want to visit the garden, it is located on Elizabeth Street between Spring Street and Prince Street in the Manhattan neighborhood of Nolita. This website shows its open hours. If traveling by subway, the closest stations are the 2nd Avenue Station (F train), the Spring Street Station (6 train), the Prince Street Station (R or W trains), or the Broadway-Lafayette Station (B, D, F, or M trains).

Experiencing Community in the LaGuardia Corner Gardens

The past couple of months have been busy ones, taking me away from my blog for a time as my students have required much of my time. (I’m an assistant dean at a law school, and my classes began the last week of July.) But I’ve still been exploring this wonderful city I call home, and I’ve got a stockpile of treasures I’ve discovered to share with you in the coming weeks. It was such a nice summer I’ve spent much of it outside – walking up and down streets of intriguing neighborhoods, looking for art, architecture, and other delights; hunting down the ever-renewing street art throughout the city; finding moments of quiet contemplation in public parks and community gardens; and even wandering a historic cemetery (or two).

For my first post in quite some time, I thought I’d take you to the LaGuardia Corner Gardens, located in Greenwich Village. I was walking past when the open gate drew me in, and I was glad I stopped. The garden isn’t huge, but there are several shaded spots to sit and enjoy the views.

The garden felt a little wild, and as I’ve read about it more I discovered it is intentionally so. Many plants are volunteers, growing where last year’s seeds dropped. That means a little more work to make your way through the garden, but it’s no reason to deter a visitor seeking a quiet space among the greenery and flowers. It also gave the community garden its own personality, making it a special little gem in the neighborhood that reflects the volunteers’ commitment to maintaining its character.

There were dozens of different flowers and plants throughout the garden. Here are some of my favorites.

If you look up instead of down, however, you’ll be reminded you’re in the middle of the city. These sunflowers made a fun contrast with neighboring buildings.

And then I came upon this little surprise – an heirloom tomato!

Finally, I was excited to capture this photo of a bee. So often, my bee photos turn out blurred, but this one was a success!

Want to visit the LaGuardia Corner Gardens yourself? It is located at 511 LaGuardia Place, between Bleecker and Houston Streets. The gardens are only open limited time periods – I recommend checking the Gardens’ official website, found here, for seasonal hours.

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.