Manhattan's Peaceful Open Spaces
Finding a quiet outdoor space in Manhattan is as challenging as Indiana Jones search for the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The ear-shattering blasts of horns and sirens and the deafening roar of construction trucks and buses make it impossible to have a conversation without shouting.
The city is an exciting place but we need a quiet zone to escape the madness.
Of course there is Central Park with its rolling hills, expansive meadows, and rowboat lake and the beautiful but crowded Bryant Park behind the New York Public Library on 42nd Street.
Locating a small intimate outdoor space is not hopeless. You just have to know where to go.
Here are several to visit:
Located on the site of the legendary Stork Club where the city’s high society dined from 1934 to 1965, Paley Park is one of the finest vest-pocket parks in the world according to the Project for Public Spaces.
Opened in 1967 as a private/public space and financed by the William S. Paley Foundation (Paley, late CBS chairman) it offers a reprieve from crowded Fifth Avenue.
Its beauty is not apparent when you first see this narrow rectangular space. Once you ascend the steps and walk past tall ornamental gates you feel its magic. Ivy covers the east and west walls. Seventeen locust trees create a canopy over the park. The unique feature is a 20-foot high cascading waterfall at the back wall. The falls, which are lit at night, generate 1800 gallons of water per minute. The gushing water blocks all street noise. Iron mesh chairs and tables are moveable.
A concession stand serving soup, sandwiches and hot dogs is hidden to the right of the entrance.
Paley Park: 3 East 53rd Street between Madison and Fifth.
|Garden of St. Luke|
Garden of St. Luke in the Fields
Even in the West Village with its charming townhouses dating back to the 1800’s and quaint streets there is a need for a quiet space. St. Luke’s, built in 1822, on land donated by Clement Clarke Moore, has an idyllic garden. The church became a mission of Trinity Episcopal Church in 1891 and remained so until 1976. The present building was reconstructed after a 1981 fire.
Hidden behind a high brick wall and an iron gate is a lush pastoral garden that wraps around the church. Tall trees, colorful gardens, four stone walkways, two passing under metal arches covered with vines and flowers creates a mini green oasis.
St. Luke in the Field: 487 Hudson Street between Barrow and Christopher Streets
Prayer Garden at The Church of St. John the Baptist
Walk through the doors of the Brutalist style monastery, of the Franciscan Capuchin Friars on 31st street, past administrative offices and up the steps or ramp to the church you will find a small sanctuary.
The silence of this garden is in sharp contrast to the heavily congested streets and bedlam generated by its neighbors Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. The sun-filled garden is in a walled off space between the two buildings. It has plants, flowers, shrubs, palm trees, stone and wrought iron benches and an oval two-tier fountain filled with gold fish during the warmer months.
Officially known as the Padre Pio prayer garden there are statues, candles and plaques with meditative words. All are welcome.
St. John the Baptist’s Church: 210 West 31st Street.
World Wide Plaza Public Plaza
Mid-block on West 49th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, on the site of the old Madison Square Garden, is a large urban space located between World Wide Plaza One and Two, commercial and residential towers respectfully.
The park has over 40 trees including 20 Japanese Zelkovas, and 16 Honey locusts. There is large fountain called The Four Seasons designed by the late sculptor Sidney Simon. Four female statues hold up a huge globe. There are over one hundred moveable chairs and tables. The plaza has tworestaurants. It is accessible from 49th and 50th Streets. It is spacious and a great place to enjoy blue-sky days.
World Wide Plaza Park – mid block 49-50th Streets west of Eighth Avenue.
Eventi Urban Space
Behind the luxury high-rise Eventi Hotel Chelsea you will find a long urban plaza. The space, part of the hotel, is open to the public. Built in a minimalist style it has a reflecting pool, 2 weeping European Birch and 15 Honey Locust trees. There are 55 moveable chairs and tables. Brighton Food, a beach-themed food court, connects to the plaza. What makes this space special is the 20-foot wide TV screen attached to the west wall high above the space. All major sporting and awards shows are shown.
Eventi: 851 Avenue of the Americas between 29 & 30th Streets.
Try this great city APP - NYC Open Spaces - an easy way to find an ideal outdoor or indoor public space. Free! Available on iPhone, iPod touch iPad.
Photos by Rudi Papiri