In the Hamilton Heights/Sugar Hill section of Harlem is a wee public park that feels like a community garden and a park at the same time. Convent Garden (Google always thinks you want to look up London's Covent Garden) is a block-long triangle with its base at 151st St., its apex poking at 152nd St., and its sides along St. Nicholas Ave. and Convent Ave. after which it's named.
The nearby Convent of the Sacred Heart burned down on August 13, 1888. The institution has since evolved into Manhattanville College, whose origin remains memorialized in the name of the street and park.
Flower density gives Convent Garden a community-garden feel. That and the presence of a local gardener. But there were kids at play too on the warm afternoon when I paid a visit.
Harlem One Stop notes that the Board of Estimate (the city's ruling cabal of earlier times) designated the property a public park back in 1909, but the city neglected to officially transfer it to the Parks Department until 1985, at which time Parks developed Convent Garden into a landscaped sitting area. And a darn nice one at that.
Just one block south is a more humdrum Parks Department property called Donnellan Square. Naturally, being in New York City, this square is a triangle. And it's one of the city's many places that honor New York soldiers who died in World War I.
Private First Class Timothy Donnellan emigrated from Ireland in 1916 and enlisted in the 69th New York Regiment, the "Fighting 69th." He was killed in action two years later. His chaplain, notes the Parks Department website, was Father Duffy of Duffy Square fame, "the most highly decorated cleric in the history of the United States Army" according to Wikipedia.
The little park was enlarged and reconstructed at the beginning of the 21st century. A fair number of locals were hanging out when I stopped by. Some of the younger ones looked at me suspiciously when they saw me taking pictures.
The blooming planting bed at the north end paid me no mind.
A few blocks north and just off Edgecombe Ave. are the Bushman Steps, a small Parks property that used to serve as an entry point to the Polo Grounds, home of the old New York baseball Giants. In a European or South American city, they'd probably just be called 157th St., for which they substitute for a short stretch. Now they take you up to the 157th St. subway station on the No. 1 line. Neighbors tend to the plants.
It seems neither the Parks Department nor anyone else knows why they're called the Bushman Steps.
All photos © Jon Sobel, Critical Lens Media