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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Charlton Plaza

OK, so this isn't a park. What can you really fit into 0.039 acres anyway? Still something fascinates me about Charlton Plaza, so that I stop and peer into it every time I walk down Sixth Avenue into SoHo. It's the shape, I think: the way it's so much narrower than the height of the particolored wall next to it, giving it an unusual sense of three-dimensionality, and the way it narrows into a tiny wedge that, nevertheless, defiantly displays the tulips some skinny soul squeezes in to plant there.

I've scanned the grounds in vain for the "game tables and benches" the Parks Department website describes.

The site does helpfully note that the property was named Charlton Plaza only in 1996, after Dr. John Charlton, a revolutionary-era physician who in the 1790s became the forward-thinking president of the Medical Society of the State of New York. Neighboring Charlton Street already honored the good doctor.

Back at the narrow(er) end, these trellises formed an appealing springtime tableau on a recent day.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

MacDonald Park

Stroll along the north side of broad Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, Queens, and you could easily miss MacDonald Park across the road. Not so much because the park is narrow (which it is) or nondescript (it's really quite pretty) but because it's missing some of its biggest features.

You see, the September 2010 storm, which spawned tornados and a macroburst over the city, knocked over a whole bunch of the neighborhood's majestic old trees, leaving MacDonald barer, if sunnier, than it's "supposed" to be.

Plenty of people come out to enjoy the park—shady or not—on a spring afternoon:

Allergies aside, the blooming trees and flowers present an unexpectedly pleasant view for anyone driving along Queens Boulevard who might happen to slow down, and an eye-easing sight for locals.

Readers of this blog won't be surprised to learn that MacDonald Park, like so many in New York City, honors a World War I hero. Captain Gerald MacDonald was an army engineer who made his home in the area and whose brother commissioned the sculpture of Gerald that now stands guard in the center of the park, which was formally dedicated in 1933.

Previously the grounds had been called Thomas F. Harvey Square. Alas, poor Mr. Harvey has fallen into obscurity, although the Parks Department website notes that he was the father of one of the only two Republican Borough Presidents in the history of Queens.

On the other hand, how many of the people sitting in the park have any idea who MacDonald himself was, or ever give a thought to the statue? Perhaps this lone tulip understands how he feels.

The park tapers to sharp corners at both ends. The American flag presides over this arm, an appropriate patriotic touch in a park honoring a war hero.