Archive for the ‘Manhattan’ Category

FDR Four Freedoms Park

September 20, 2013

This relatively new park is dedicated to one of our great presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The “Four Freedoms” bears some explaining because most people alive today probably were not around when it was first introduced. In a nationwide speech that Roosevelt gave in 1941, he imagined a world based on the following four attributes – freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. It is sad that 72 years later, these freedoms are still lacking in much of the world.

Dropped onto the southern end of Roosevelt Island, the park has views of both Manhattan and Queens. Aside from the views, the park itself is what I would call “earnest,” with a symmetrical severity punctuated by cold concrete. The park was designed 38 years ago, when the city budget didn’t allow for it.  Some might say it resembles a Soviet-era monument.

FDR Four Freedoms Park

FDR Four Freedoms Park

FDR Four Freedoms Park

FDR Four Freedoms Park

A nice view of Long Island City!

FDR Four Freedoms Park

Despite all that open grass, you are not allowed to picnic on it.  No food is allowed.  It doesn’t really give off the vibe of a casual place to hang out.  Given that, I would only recommend coming here if you happen to be on Roosevelt Island anyway.  The park is a 15 minute walk from the train station if you’re coming by subway. If you’re driving, you will need to park near the station. (The only parking closer to the park is limited to visitors and staff of the nursing facility nearby.) The park is open from 9 to 7 every day except Tuesdays.  No bikes or dogs are allowed.

Randall’s Island

June 15, 2012

Randall’s Island is a formidable chunk of land in the East River wedged between Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx.  It was opened up as a park in the 1930’s by Franklin Roosevelt.  Since then, it has undergone many uses, the most current being a recreational area for a variety of sports. The concentration of sports fields in this park is unbelievable – well over 50! Name a sport and the park can probably accommodate your team. There is also a golf center, a tennis center, and a track and field stadium.  Not to be remiss, bikers, joggers, and casual walkers get plenty of pavement along the shoreline. Fishermen can also be found lined up along the shore looking for a good catch.

The park recently hosted an arts and music exhibition called Flow.12, featuring the works of five artists. The pieces are site-specific and will be around all summer. This one, called Meters To The Center, is by Laura Kaufman.

Randall's Island

This island is by no means the next Governors Island, but it does have expansive views of Manhattan, large fields of grass and trees for picnicking, and the  East river rushing by on either side.

Randall's Island

Randall's Island

We shared a brief moment with this little fella.

Randall's Island

For those of you who like bridges, the southern part of the island has not one, not two, but three vying for your attention!  This is the footbridge that connects to Manhattan on 103rd Street.

Randall's Island

Here is the Triboro Bridge (you will need to torture this diehard NYer before she uses the new name!)
Randall's Island

…and in the distance you get a view of the Hell’s Gate Bridge.
Randall's Island

There are many ways to get to the island.  From Manhattan, you can walk or bike across on the newly opened footbridge at 103rd St.  If you prefer public transportation, you can hop on the M35 bus at the NW corner of 125th Street and Lexington Ave.  Folks from the Bronx can use the pedestrian ramp at Cypress Avenue and Bruckner Boulevard, which deposits you at the northern end of the island. The ramp in Queens is at Hoyt Avenue and 28th Street, adjacent to the Astoria Boulevard N/W station.  It deposits you mid-island. By car, access is off the Triboro Bridge. Be aware that there is a $6.25 toll to enter the island.

The High Line, Section 2

July 3, 2011

Section 2 of the High Line opened with much fanfare about a month ago.  It adds 10 blocks of new green space to the tracks, stretching from 20th to 30th St.  Here are some of the views headed north.

These wooden steps were featured in a great musical ad campaign for the new section before it opened. It got me pretty psyched, actually. Here is the video.
High Line, Section 2

This is the much-touted picnic lawn that is unique to Section 2. Wedged between buildings on either side, it doesn’t offer much in the way of views.  I wouldn’t call it a destination picnic spot, but if you happen to be in the area, it is a comfy resting place for people-watching. The only reason why it is empty is because it is off-limits for now.
High Line, Section 2

Overall, the walkways mimicked the old section. Take a careful look at the plants along the way – some of them are quite striking.  It’s odd to know that many were native to the city before any of us were born.  There are some that I have never seen before.
High Line, Section 2

High Line, Section 2

High Line, Section 2

The elevated walkover in the middle of this new section is another unique feature to this section. This is not the best depiction of it, but you can see that there are plants growing below you. Eventually, some of them will provide shade.
High Line, Section 2

There is a viewing station of the cross-town traffic at 26th St.  If I had to choose between this station and the one in Section 1, I would park myself in the other one.  This one feels more cramped.
High Line, Section 2

If you are thirsty from all that walking, fear not.  The new beer garden at the end of the line, aptly named The Lot, will probably satisfy everyone.  Just be warned that the line to get in can be long.  I opted instead to check out a nearby attraction called Rainbow City. The eye-popping wonder of a park is here temporarily to celebrate the opening of the new section.  It is closing this weekend, so if you would like to watch adults and kids grapple with massive balloons and have a go at it yourself, check it out before it closes on July 5th!
High Line, Section 2

High Line, Section 2

Section 2 starts at 20th St and 10th Ave and ends at 30th St. There are also access points at 23rd, 26th, and 28th St.  The entire park is open from 7am to 11pm. No dogs or bikes are allowed.

Riverside Park

June 26, 2011

Riverside Park is the quiet cousin to the crowded and boisterous Central Park.  Frederick Law Olmstead developed both parks, but considering the vastly different locations, they provide vastly different experiences.  Hugging the coast on the Upper Westside, the park stretches from 72nd St to 158th St, outshining Central Park in length, if not width.

The park lays claim to beautiful river views that can be seen from several vantage points.  There are technically three levels to the park, but I can only distinguish two.  There is a lower level with walkways and bike paths right next to the river.  Considering there are few trees at that level, it is wise to wear a hat.  Besides the river views, the lower level offers envious views of people’s boats docked at the marina.  I wonder if people ever take them out to fish along the Hudson.  Is it safe to fish in the Hudson?

Riverside Park

The upper level contains the more wooded and landscaped areas you would expect from Olmstead.  Here is a view of the upper level with glimpses of the river.  Looks very much like Central Park, doesn’t it?
Riverside Park

The upper level also contains lawn space and benches along the sides – perfect for quiet reading or picnics.  There were so few people around on a beautiful weekend afternoon that I had to wonder if this park is on people’s radars.
Riverside Park

One landmark of note when you reach the upper 80’s is the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.   It was built in the 1920’s to honor the New Yorkers who died in the Civil War.  It is reached via stairs, and the view of the park from up there is not quite as spectacular as the view of the monument itself up close.
Riverside Park

The more famous monument in the park, Grant’s Tomb, is much further uptown in the 120’s. If you are up for a very long, leisurely stroll, it is very possible to walk from 72nd St to 125th St (there are breaks in the park for traffic at 96th St and 125th St). Just wear good walking shoes!

To get to the bottom starting point of the park, take the 1, 2, or 3 to 72nd St and walk west to the river.  The park is good for biking, dog-walking, and jogging. There are also many sports facilities and playgrounds sprinkled throughout the park.

Chelsea Piers Driving Range

May 22, 2011

Having grown up in the city all my life, certain pastimes that other people take for granted have eluded me.  Swimming in your own pool?  Doing barbecues out on your deck?  Recreational fishing off a boat?  And what is this game of golf that others speak of? Where do people play golf in a city that is hampered by a lack of large open spaces?  When I started looking into this golf business, I realized that there are a number of golf courses sprinkled throughout the city.  I was dumbfounded to find that Queens alone has seven!  That is a lot of rolling green grass that I have never set eyes on.  I will try to get to one of them this summer just to see what it is all about.

In the meantime, I will highlight another offering of golf culture – the driving range.  Where there are golf courses, there are usually driving ranges to help everyone from beginners to pros practice their swing.  A few years back, I tried out the driving range at Chelsea Piers. It is a nice one because it is actually built over the Hudson River.  There are several floors from which to tee off, and I would suggest asking for a high floor just for the vantage point.  The fake grass juxtaposed with boats to the side and the river beyond it adds a surreal touch as you try to toss your ball into the river.  Too bad that the netting gets in the way.

Chelsea Piers driving range

The driving range is a great way to spend the afternoon outdoors doing something that you don’t normally do in the city.  I wouldn’t say I did much to improve my swing, but pretending I was a pro was just as fun.  There is also a simulation room that you can use for the same purpose where you practice in front of a large screen. I can’t imagine who would want to be stuck in a dark room swinging out into an even faker version of grass, but it is useful for those rainy days, I guess.

Chelsea Piers is located at Pier 59 on 23rd St.  The closest subway is the 23rd St station on the C and E line.  Hours and rates for the driving range vary by season and time of day.  Click here for the most current information. They also give individual and group lessons for those of you who want to pick up the sport.  For more information on the golf courses in the city, I found this website to be the most comprehensive.

Hudson River Parks

June 18, 2010

I’m so happy that the city is able to turn unused space into newly minted parks. The Hudson River Parks along the west side of the island is just one great example. Many of the abandoned piers are now green space for lounging and picnicking. While the parks are still a work in progress in some places, there are plenty of existing ones to choose from, stretching from West Houston St all the way to West 56th St. The following are two personal favorites of mine – Pier 45 off of West 10th St and Pier 63 off of West 23rd St.

Pier 45 has a long stretch of lawn and is dotted by trees.  There’s a tent space at the end of it for events.

Hudson River Parks

Hudson River Parks

Because this pier juts out pretty far into the water, you get a good view of the Manhattan skyline from here. It’s even more beautiful at sunset.

Hudson River Parks

If you choose to walk uptown towards Pier 63, you will pass some interesting relics. You also might glimpse some ducks or geese.

Hudson River Parks

Hudson River Parks

Located next to Chelsea Piers, Pier 63 has both an outdoor cafe setting with lots of flowers and bushes and a large lawn that’s perfect for a picnic.  The trade-off is that it doesn’t stretch out into the water compared to the other piers, so the view isn’t quite as impressive.

Hudson River Parks

Hudson River Parks

Since the parks are right along the Hudson, you will want to take the A, C, or E if you’re aiming for one of the parks above 14th St. Take the 1 if you’re headed to a park below 14th St. To see all the parks that are finished and those that are still in progress, click here.  There are a ton of free concerts, movies, and other events that take place at the parks during the summer.  For a list of current events, click here.

Roosevelt Island

June 4, 2010

Roosevelt Island is a contradiction.  It is Manhattan but not on Manhattan.  It is part of the city but looks nothing like the city.   The Island, named for Franklin D. Roosevelt, has a sordid history of housing mental patients, prisoners, and the destitute.  Today, it is better known for its new luxury condos and rentals, many with sought-after views of the Manhattan skyline.   Not a surprise in such a city like New York, where neighborhoods reinvent themselves again and again to suit the needs of its citizens.   Why should you visit Roosevelt Island?  Well, the sweeping views of Manhattan also come with trees overhead and grass underfoot.   It’s a beautiful place to have a picnic or BBQ.

Views of the skyline
Roosevelt island

Roosevelt Island BBQ

In the middle of the island is a communal garden that the residents tend.

Roosevelt island

Here are some views from the BBQ area on the northern end of the island, called Lighthouse Park.  This is your view to the west.

Roosevelt Island BBQ

This is the view to the east.  There is a lot of grass for people to put down picnic blankets.  This immediate area has benches and grilling stations.

Roosevelt Island BBQ

And this is the view to the north.  Interestingly, this lighthouse was built by a mental patient.

Roosevelt Island BBQ

The easiest way to get to Roosevelt Island is by taking the F to the Roosevelt Island station.   For a more scenic view, you should take the air tram, which takes Metrocards.   However, the tram is currently being upgraded and will be out of service until September 2010.   You can also drive to Roosevelt Island.  Click here for directions.

For those interested in BBQ’ing, grills are located at Lighthouse Park, West Seawall near the Octagon, Octagon Soccer Field, and the East Seawall South of Queensboro Bridge.   During weekends when the weather is good, those grills go fast, so get there early to claim a spot!

Bryant Park

May 28, 2010

When I’m in the mood to hide myself in a beautiful park, but still want to feel the energy of the city around me, this is the one I turn to.  Its lawn is a vibrant green come springtime, and you can choose to either sit on the side and ponder its perfection or wade into its deep vastness.

The park takes on a certain hushed tone at dusk.  That is my favorite time to go. The lampposts begin to turn on, casting shadows among the cafe chairs, the carousel whirls with a carnivalesque brightness, and the lawn takes on a glow as a number of spotlights take up their calling from a nearby building.

Bryant Park

At night, the nearby buildings start twinkling like stars.
Bryant Park

Bryant Park

Bryant Park

Bryant Park

Bryant Park is located between 40th and 42nd Streets, between Fifth and Sixth Avenue.   Basically behind the main branch of the New York Public Library with the lions in front.  The park puts on many hats throughout the year, hosting fashion shows, ice rinks, and movie screenings.  Click here for a calendar of events.  I just looked at it for the first time and realized they give birding tours.  Who knew?

Fort Tryon Park

May 14, 2010

Fort Tryon Park is not as well-known as the museum that sits on its grounds, the Cloisters. That is unfortunate because if you end up just doing the museum, you would have missed half of the point of being there. The park is located on one of the highest elevations in Manhattan and gives you breathtaking views of the Hudson and the Palisades. People who are familiar with Central Park will notice similarities in landscaping. Interestingly, the man who designed this park happened to be the son of the man who designed Central Park, Frederick Law Olmstead. The most striking difference is the dramatic presence of the park itself. You are on top of a cliff and you are not made to forget it.

Here are a few pics taken from the medieval festival that pops up each year in the fall. It’s a hokey affair with people dressed up in costume and vendors selling humongous turkey drumsticks, but it’s also something that you should do once in your life and then check off your list!

Fort Tryon Park is located in Inwood on the northern tip of Manhattan, stretching from West 192nd to Dyckman Street and from Riverside Drive to Broadway. You can take the A train to 190th St and walk a short way north up Margaret Corbin Drive. Driving is not recommended since you will need to either find a parking garage or take your chances with the limited street parking available near the park.

The High Line

April 30, 2010

Like Central Park, this relatively new park is a welcome interruption on the urban grid of Manhattan.  The unique aspect about this park is its elevated nature.  Between the 1930s and 50s, the elevated freight tracks that the park now stands on were used to transport food and manufactured goods to the warehouses and factories in Chelsea.  These tracks were originally built in response to all the traffic accidents and deaths that occurred when the trains ran on the streets.  Today, the park is a testament to creative recycling and preservation.

This is the entrance at Gansevoort Street

The tracks are still visible beneath the foliage

It’s very odd to see grass growing out of concrete. There’s also plenty of seating along the whole stretch. The best seating is towards the middle of the park, where the rolling chaise lounge chairs are located. It’s great seating if you can snag one. They’re very popular.

Butterflies already call this place home among the native species of wildflowers planted here.

A glass-enclosed sitting area gives you a view of the traffic below. It’s a good spot for a picnic.

A view from the end of the line…for now. There are plans to extend the park further north.

The High Line is located between 10th and 11th Ave and currently stretches from Gansevoort St to 20th St. There are entrances at Gansevoort St, 14th St (elevator access), 16th St (elevator access), 18th St, and 20th St. The park is open daily from 7am to 8pm. I recommend going during the daytime and coming back some other time at night. (The park takes on a different personality at night.) Dogs and bikes are not allowed.