I received several messages about my recent blog –Check out your local park. Most asked me about other parks in NYC. I purposely have not mentioned the major parks as most guide books do a much better job of describing these. However, being the second day of summer and feeling quite lazy, I let my fingers do the walking within the internet, here are a few parks, not often mentioned, that may be of interest as you walk throughout Manhattan. I selected these because I have visited each of them in the past.
A FEW PARKS IN MID-TOWN
53rd Street, between Madison and Fifth Avenues
You’ll do a double take as you walk down 53rd Street and see a waterfall in the middle of Manhattan. There’s just something special about finding a little slice of nature in the midst of high-rise, office buildings. The waterfall (or wall of water) drowns out the street noise and the lovely; honey locust trees provide welcome shade during the sweltering summer months. There’s also a food kiosk for snacks & sodas.
51st Street, between Second & Third Avenues
Not far from Paley Park, you’ll find this charming asphalt alternative that some regulars consider their outdoor living room. It too has a bubbling waterfall, shade trees, pretty plantings and an outdoor café. Each park has its devoted fans, but both are perfect shady arbors in which to enjoy a sandwich, give the feet a rest or totally space out and commune with what passes for nature in New York City.
EAST OF MID-TOWN NEAR THE UN BUILDING
Tudor City Greens
“above” 42nd Street, between First & Second Avenues
This you really will not believe. Nestled among the Tudor City apartment buildings, on a bluff above the East River, are two little parks with fountains, winding paths, flower gardens, tall trees, chirping birds and park benches. You have not died and gone to heaven, it just feels like it. So, take out your brown-bag lunch and enjoy! The architecture of the surrounding buildings (on the National Register of Historic Places) is Tudor/Elizabethan revival style, adding to the impression that you’re on a university campus in merry old England. On some evenings, they even have concerts! Enter Tudor City Greens directly at street level from 2nd Ave. at either 41st St. or 43rd St. or, access by stairways: one, on 42nd St., between 1st & 2nd Aves. (Next to the Ford Foundation); the other, on 1st Ave., between 42nd & 43rd Sts.
THE AREA NEAR THE UN BUILDING
St Bartholomew’s Cathedral –Terrace
Park Avenue and east 50th Street
The terrace of St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral, at Park Avenue and East 50th Street, decorated with flowerpots, where Sunday brunch is served; the rose gardens at the U.N., overlooking the East River.
A FEW OTHER PARKS IN THE AREA
The Katherine Hepburn garden, near the actress’ Manhattan pied-à-terre, and lovely little St. Mary’s Garden, flanking a Catholic church, both on Dag Hammarskjold Plaza.
Mount Vernon Hotel – East 61st Street,
In the shadow of the Queensboro Bridge, the Colonial Dames of America tend an intimate spicy-smelling garden with handsome inlaid brick walkways. It wraps around the historic Mount Vernon Hotel, a country retreat in the early 1800s when the city extended no farther north than 14th Street.
Community Parks & Gardens
All Boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx & Staten Island)
Celebrated entertainer Bette Midler has a passion for parks. Lucky for us, she lives in New York and spreads this passion through her New York Restoration Project, which cleans up community parks and gardens, making them safe havens for locals residents and out-of-town visitors alike. It’s worth stopping by a few of these horticulture success stories for rest-and-relaxation and to be inspired to do some hoeing & weeding in your own community. You’ll find information on how to get to the community parks and gardens, supported by the project, in all five boroughs on NYRP’s website.
SOME ADDED THOUGHTS
The leafy Riverdale section of the Bronx is home to another unforgettable garden. Wave Hill is no secret to people who live nearby, but for almost everybody else, it takes a little doing to get there from mid-Manhattan (by bus, subway or Metro-North trains). It’s worth the trip uptown because the 28-acre horticultural laboratory and showplace has special rewards.
The Heather Garden at the Cloisters
Parks Commissioner Benepe calls the heather garden in Fort Tryon Park “the little garden that could” because of the way it came back to life after two decades of neglect. Its original plan was the work of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., who designed it at the behest of John D. Rockefeller Jr., as part of a 67-acre park at the northwest corner of Manhattan. Now, thanks to the efforts of city gardeners starting in 1985, low-lying heaths, heathers and brooms, all acid-loving plants that thrive in wastelands, recall the moors of northern England on terraces almost 260 feet above the Hudson River.
Most people come to this distant green edge of the city to visit the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to medieval European architecture and art. Its treasures include the fabled Unicorn Tapestries, woven in Brussels around 1500, and three perfect cloister gardens, one of which has an outdoor cafe set amid flowerpots and statues of the Apostles from the Middle Ages. YOU CAN REACH HERE BY BUS –
There’s the garden hidden behind the Episcopal Church of St. Luke in the Fields on Hudson Street in the West Village.
The more you look for gardens in the city, the more you find.
LAtimes -By Susan Spano Times Staff Writer