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Saturday, August 20, 2011

First Park

Now, I don't want all you other playgrounds getting jealous and agitating to get into this blog. As we said at the beginning, "parks" that have no element of passive enjoyment aren't parks for the purposes of Park Odyssey. First Park, though, gets a pass because of its name – if it's called First Park, it must be important, right? – and its location, at the intersection of First Avenue, East First Street, and Houston Street.

No, it wasn't the actual first park, not by any means. That honor goes to Bowling Green. First Park didn't even get its name until a 1997 renovation. But it has the benefit of its location at the First street and the First avenue in the First city. (We New Yorkers do like to think of our city as the First – in importance.)

The New York City Parks Department website uses its entry on First Park as an opportunity to expound upon the history of playgrounds in the city. The phrases "Robert Moses" and "years of neglect and disrepair" figure in the description, as they seem to everywhere in NYC history. I'd like to take this opportunity to mention my appreciation for the anonymous scribes who create the Parks Department park descriptions, which are posted on the website and also, often, on signs in the parks.

In fact, First Park isn't all playground. The southern tip features this attractive expanse of asphalt where people can sit, far enough from the play areas that you know they're not here keeping an eye on their children. Passive enjoyment, then; there you go. To the left is a typical London plane tree with particolored bark.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pumphouse Park

This park is a mystery. Listed neither under the New York City Parks Department, nor under the Battery Park parks website, Pumphouse Park is just…there, with no explanation.

Adjacent to World Financial Center Plaza and the North Cove Marina in lower Manhattan, the park is a vaguely foot-shaped expanse of trees and flowers, surrounding a modest central lawn with plenty of room for small children to cavort. Lots of benches and lots of oxygen make it a very pleasant place to while away a free half hour.

This isn't the only Pumphouse Park in the world. There's one in Richmond, Virginia, although it's often spelled Pump House Park. Perhaps in preparation for invasion aliens have planted a sinister network of Pumphouse Parks in various cities around the world as nexi for their nefarious forthcoming attack.

Well, it's possible. This woman pretending to read a book might actually be an alien scout.

There's a feeling of health here in the summertime. Even the pigeons look sleek and slim—a clear sign that something unnatural is going on.

Dogs, however, aren't welcome. Probably because of the carefully landscaped flora. Or, more likely, because their superior olfactory sense might suss out traces of the aliens.

Things were pretty quiet on a recent summer evening…

…and construction was finished for the day on the new One World Trade Center, just steps away from this little mystery park. (No, it's no longer being designated the Freedom Tower, but many of us are still thinking of it that way.) As of this writing, the concrete workers are on strike. But how could you have a big city without some kind of strike going on or being threatened? In any case, the tower's looking good. If you head downtown to check on its progress, take a detour through Pumphouse Park. And if you know anything about the park—who maintains it, what pumphouse it's named for and where that pumphouse was, anything—please leave a comment!

Monday, August 1, 2011

World Financial Center Plaza

A sojourn to the southern tip of Manhattan provides the urban explorer a welcome break from the miles and miles of grid covering most of the island like a giant screen door laid over the land. There's the waterfront, of course, and large well-known spaces like Battery Park, plus smaller surprises like the Irish Hunger Memorial and Rector Park.

These outdoor spaces aren't always official city parks. The World Financial Center is a set of three large buildings immediately west of the World Trade Center, surrounding a landscaped plaza called the World Financial Center Plaza, adjoining the picturesque North Cove Marina. I saw an outdoor concert here on the Saturday just prior to the terrorist attacks of 9-11 and for that reason this area, which was more or less undamaged by the collapse of the towers, resonates weirdly in my memory, especially since it's so pristinely clean and shiny.

The plaza has lots of open space as well as grass and trees.

Here's where you'd go to learn sailing skills, too:

And if you're lucky (and rich) you can keep your yacht here at North Cove, whose chairman is none other than America's Cup champ Dennis Conner.

What, you don't have a yacht? Well, at least you can watch plenty of boats go by from here. Or take a ride on one of these:

All of this just goes to show that parks are where you find them—even when they're not called parks. Stay tuned: the next entry, about Pumphouse Park, will include a great photo of the rapidly rising 1 World Trade Center (formerly designated the Freedom Tower).