The West Side’s airy Bella Abzug Park, designed by landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc, features a new seating area of plentiful benches as well as wire-rimmed tables and chairs complete with umbrellas for shade. The team behind the West Side green space is known for its large-scale public plazas, including recent renovations on Brooklyn Bridge Park as well as the downtown Jacob K Javits Plaza. Bella Abzug (originally known as Hudson Park and boulevard) began renovations in 2010 at W33rd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues to expand the park to accommodate for the extension of the 7 train to 11th Avenue, as well as the rapid influx of residential, retail and commercial development in Hudson Yards over the past decade. The park was renamed in 2019 to honor Bella Abzug, the stalwart Bronx-born lawmaker and activist known as “Battling Bella” who championed civil rights, LGBTQ and women’s equality in New York State and nationwide. “As any observer of New York politics would tell you, Bella Abzug was a potent force for the West Side and, in fact, the entire country, ” said former Manhattan Borough President and current City Council Member Gale Brewer at the dedication. “She was a friend and mentor, and naming this new park for her will, in however small a way, educate and inform future generations about this one-of-a-kind, larger-than-life New Yorker. ”The Hudson Yards Hell’s Kitchen Alliance — a West Side Business Improvement District not-for-profit organization — maintains the care of the park and curates its programming, which features seasonal events ranging from yoga to concerts to movie nights. The park also hosts frequent temporary art installations, including the BIG APPLE statue by Canadian artist Félix Marzel, King Nyani — a 4-and-a-half ton gorilla sculpture by Australian Artists Gillie and Marc Schattner, and the recent Photoville summer gallery showing. This story was adapted from the W42ST article, "There’s More Room for Relaxation as Bella Abzug Park Expands at Hudson Yards. "
The history of the Village's favorite park involves an attack on Native Americans, slave land ownership and a burial ground for the city's destitute. It sounds like an urban legend, but Washington Square Park, adored for its arch monument, towering water fountain, chess games, live performances, children's playground and lively dog run, was originally Native American marshland given to slaves and later developed as a public park that now sits on top of a 19th-century cemetery. Tumultuous history aside, this park, named in honor of George Washington, has played an important role in the neighborhood's bohemian culture since folk singers staged the first protest here in the late 1940s. To this day, Washington Square Park continues to serve as the backdrop of counterculture demonstrations — and live music and theater performances enjoyed by all.
Transformed from a building lot to a beautiful space to showcase art, the First Street Garden Art Park adds culture to 1st street. Beginning in the spring of 2012, a variety of cultural events have taken place in this art park which, in 2011, was home to the first BMW/Guggenheim project. There are scheduled weekend programs showcasing music, dance and collaborative art for adults and children. Stop by anytime and see the newly unveiled artwork constantly changing.
Between Second and Third Avenue, dwarfed by much taller buildings on either side, is a lovely hidden oasis called Greenacre Park. Created by the Rockefellers to provide New Yorkers with "some moments of serenity in a busy world, " the park offers a bit of unhurried tranquility to neighborhood residents and those tourists lucky enough to stumble across it. I came there after lunch and sat on one of the low wooden benches, enjoying the mid-afternoon sunlight as it filtered down through a thick leafy canopy. Around me were friends catching up over coffee, suit-clad professionals taking a break from work and parents exploring with their children. Although filled with people, the park never felt busy or crowded: it is unexpectedly large, extending far enough back to allow several levels of seating and to have a 25-foot waterfall — the most remarkable and dynamic feature. Folded into the side of the park, there is a small, unimposing kiosk. Falls Cafe sells coffee, breakfast sandwiches, pastries and fruit. The man behind the counter commented to me, "This is the best place I ever worked, " and turning around to capture his view, I understood why: he looks directly out at the waterfall.
On her own grassy island in the middle of Riverside Drive, Joan of Arc sits astride a horse, staring over the Hudson River. The sculpture’s artist is Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington, one of the first woman artists to be elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She studied and worked in the United States until 1906, when she moved to Paris. Joan of Arc became her muse while she was in France, so she researched the female historical figure extensively and began work on her sculpture. The piece is notable for being one of the first featuring a human being that Huntington attempted. Up to that point, the artist focused on animals. In 1910, Huntington finished her sculpture and won an Honorable Mention for it at the Paris Salon. Meanwhile, money was being raised in New York for a statue of Joan of Arc that would be placed by Riverside Park for the 500th anniversary of the saint’s birth. Huntington’s sculpture was chosen, making it the first equestrian statue by a woman to be erected in New York.
According to the NYC Parks Department, back in the late nineteenth century, the neighborhood around Sutton Place Park was "infamous for gangs of street toughs. " Thankfully, nowadays, there is nary a neighborhood tough to be found. Instead, the small, shady plaza behind the FDR Drive and overlooking the East River provides a delightful spot to rest, read, and reflect.
56th Street begins, ironically, at a dead end. Way east, past Sutton Place South, the street empties out into a shallow driveway between two tall apartment buildings, which comes to a sudden halt at an imposing wall. When I continued on, though, beyond the high concrete slab, I discovered an enticing park. Once a private terrace for residents of the two aforementioned apartment buildings, it is today open to the public and operated by the city. There is a small brick walkway lined with benches and a few stone chess tables, and despite being dwarfed by the apartment buildings on either side, it provides a magnificent view out onto the East River. And, because of the park's elevation, when I turned away from the water, and peered out in the opposite direction, I could see far across 56th Street, where I was about to begin my walk west.