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.