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Friday, August 18, 2017

Macri Triangle

As I endeavor to visit every park in New York City, I bring you via this blog the beautiful and the interesting, the time-honored and the new, the vast and the pocket-sized. I also find among the city's green and open spaces the neglected and the sad. Case in point: Macri Triangle, in one of the not-so-hipster-cool parts of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Two things appear to be of note. First, there's a memorial to "the men of this community who made the supreme sacrifice in World War II." Most of the names are Italian, reflecting the composition of the community in the 1940s.

macri triangle williamsburg brooklyn nyc
macri triangle williamsburg brooklyn nyc

The other item also indicates a heavy Italian-American presence – and the dwindling thereof too. It's an overgrown bocce court.

macri triangle bocce court williamsburg brooklyn nyc

The little park is not being entirely ignored. A website called Friends of Macri Triangle Park asks residents to "Join us in working together for our lovely little triangle park" and "Help us fix up that amazing – but seriously dilapidated – bocce court." The group formed just recently, in the fall of 2016, when it held a "family fun day" and clean-up event. Perhaps things are looking up for Macri Triangle.

A couple of new plantings offer a glimmer of hope.

macri triangle williamsburg brooklyn nyc

Still, when we visited on a weekend afternoon in July, we were met with this sad sight:

macri triangle williamsburg brooklyn nyc

It's hard to get more pitiful than a "lock" improvised from rope and duct tape. It did seem to be having the desired effect, though – no one was inside. Not that there was any reason to be. Benches line the sidewalks around the park, which sits by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. But there's no real seating inside, nothing to do (at least until that bocce court gets revived), and nothing nice even to look at, aside from the memorial.

macri triangle williamsburg brooklyn nyc

Even the Parks Department website offers no historical information on Macri Triangle. It took me some digital digging to come up with a 2009 article that mentioned the park's creation "in 1946 from land seized by the city in the aftermath of the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway." The Courier-Life piece also tells us that after the park had been neglected for decades, in 1990 Assemblyman Joseph Lentol got funding to build the bocce court, "though fewer people use the court for bocce these days" as "[t]he demographic that might play bocce is moving out of the neighborhood and going to Long Island and other places where rent is cheaper."

As recently as 2008, a blogger described Macri Triangle as "well kept-up and is a rather nice little park," and presented photos to prove it. But it quickly declined, and a 2014 presentation described it as "Not Cared for" and "Not Inviting."

A nearby gay bar, Macri Park, shares the name. But where that name came from – who Macri was – my internet search has not revealed; if you know, please leave a comment!

All photos © Jon Sobel, Critical Lens Media

Friday, August 11, 2017

Brooklyn Bridge Park South

brooklyn bridge park governors island ferry nycSo much has been added to Brooklyn Bridge Park over the past few years that a fresh visit reveals a whole new park – or really a string of small parks.

For a good view of them from above, see my recent post about the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. For a snapshot of Brooklyn Bridge Park's older, northern section four years ago, take a look back in time. To delve inside the newer stretches, read on.

The park now encompasses Pier 6, Pier 5, Pier 2, and various tracts between. Pier 6 is also where Brooklynites can catch the Governors Island Ferry.

brooklyn bridge park nyc

Parts of the park have been landscaped with so much greenery you could forget you're in the city – if not for the waterside and skyline views.

brooklyn bridge park nyc
brooklyn bridge park nyc
brooklyn bridge park nyc
brooklyn bridge park nyc

There's a lot for children and families here, and not one, not two, but three soccer fields on Pier 5.

brooklyn bridge park nyc
brooklyn bridge park nyc
brooklyn bridge park pier 5 nyc

But there's also plenty of green grass and peaceful spots for quieter adult pleasures. And lots more room to breathe than in the DUMBO section of the park, not mention at places like Coney Island.

brooklyn bridge park nyc
brooklyn bridge park nyc
brooklyn bridge park nyc

For good measure, we headed to the northern section to see the park's newest art feature, Anish Kapoor's Descension whirlpool, at Pier 1, where it will remain until 10 September 2017.

brooklyn bridge park anish kapoor descension whirlpool nyc

All photos © Jon Sobel, Critical Lens Media

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Brooklyn Heights Promenade in Full

Recently I discovered that the Brooklyn Heights Promenade was actually a park. That day I didn't have time to walk its full length. I hereby remedy that. Here's the southern entrance.

brooklyn heights promenade nyc

A quick look south offers a good view of Tom Fruin's steel and plexiglass sculpture Watertower 3: RV Ingersoll.

brooklyn heights promenade tom fruin watertower brooklyn bridge park nyc

Instead of industrial or undeveloped waterfront, the view now takes in the manifold segments of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

brooklyn heights promenade brooklyn bridge park nyc
brooklyn heights promenade brooklyn bridge park nyc
brooklyn heights promenade brooklyn bridge park nyc

There's even a swimming pool now.

brooklyn heights promenade brooklyn bridge park nyc

But cast your eye inward and there are picturesque sights closer to hand, like beds of greenery, flowers, and a pleasingly curvilinear entrance to the promenade.

brooklyn heights promenade nyc
brooklyn heights promenade nyc
brooklyn heights promenade nyc

Two-thirds of a century old, the Promenade remains a felicitous place to just sit and enjoy the air and the views.

brooklyn heights promenade nyc

You can even watch kayak polo.

brooklyn heights promenade kayak polo nyc

The lower Manhattan skyline as seen from the Promenade is an ever-popular backdrop for photographers and filmmakers.

brooklyn heights promenade nyc
manhattan skyline brooklyn heights promenade nyc

All photos © Jon Sobel, Critical Lens Media

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Cobble Hill Park

Cobble Hill, one of New York City's prettiest neighborhoods, is also lucky to have beautiful Cobble Hill Park in its midst. The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn (1998), an ever-useful (though now somewhat outdated) book from Yale University Press, calls it "one of the first vest-pocket parks in New York City," but at more than half an acre it doesn't seem to me to quite fit that category.

Curved paths and plantings do, of course, make a park feel bigger than it is.

cobble hill park brooklyn nyc
cobble hill park brooklyn nyc

The curves even extend to the playground.

cobble hill park brooklyn nyc

In the early 1960s the community blocked construction of a supermarket on the abandoned site of two mansions and a church, and successfully petitioned to have the city take over the property that would become Cobble Hill Park. The park officially opened in 1965. A 1989-90 renovation won several design awards, a fact that won't surprise visitors with fresh eyes. The plantings are lovingly cared for, and the park is very popular with local fauna of more than one species. As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the great park success stories of the era.

cobble hill park brooklyn nyc
cobble hill park brooklyn nyc

Why "Cobble Hill"? It's an old name that predates the residential neighborhood that now bears it. The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn says the early Dutch farmers' name for the area, "Ponkiesbergh," translates as "Coble (or Cobble) Hill," named for the cobblestones in the area, but I don't think I buy that. According to the Parks Department website, "In 1776, during the Battle of Long Island, the Continental Army called the area 'Cobble Hill' after a similar hill they had recently fortified during the Siege of Boston." I invite any local historians who can settle this question to leave a comment below.

Of course, that has nothing to do with today's park, which isn't paved with cobblestones – though there are some under the benches – but does have bluestone, cast iron, and herringbone-patterned brick walkways. And plenty of flowers.

cobble hill park brooklyn nyc
cobble hill park brooklyn nyc

Cobble Hill trivia: The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn says the writer Thomas Wolfe lived on this block of Verandah Place alongside the park.

cobble hill verandah place brooklyn nyc

Cobble Hill Park is a treasure. I lived in nearby Park Slope for many years but never knew this small park was here. Finding places like it is one of the things that makes my ongoing park odyssey worthwhile.

van voorhees playground brooklyn nyc
Important message spotted at nearby Van Voorhees Playground

All photos © Jon Sobel, Critical Lens Media

Monday, July 31, 2017

Park Odyssey Featured in amNewYork

While not normally one for self-referential blog posts, I think being featured in amNewYork, "Manhattan's highest daily circulation newspaper," is worth a mention. Reporter Mark Chiusano interviewed me last week for his column. The resulting article appeared online last Thursday, and a shorter but still substantial version appeared in the printed edition today. Chiusano profiled me and the odyssey, and also used my ongoing quest to visit every park in New York City as an angle for providing readers general information about the parks.

Many thanks to Mark and amNewYork for the coverage.

park odyssey featured in amny amnewyork nyc

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New York Botanical Garden: Dale Chihuly Exhibit

Until October 29, 2017 you can see a whole world of Dale Chihuly's amazing artworks throughout the New York Botanical Garden in The Bronx. It's a magnificent exhibit that I felt was worth a special notice here.

dale chihuly nybg new york botanical garden bronx nyc

During the day you can see the works for the price of regular NYBG admission. Some reach for the sky. Others reside in the water.

dale chihuly nybg new york botanical garden bronx nyc
dale chihuly nybg new york botanical garden bronx nyc
dale chihuly nybg new york botanical garden bronx nyc

Some you can approach very closely. We saw a little girl almost break this sculpture, installed right in front of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

dale chihuly nybg new york botanical garden bronx nyc

Some are installed more slyly, inside.

dale chihuly nybg new york botanical garden bronx nyc
dale chihuly nybg new york botanical garden bronx nyc

For a separate fee you can also visit at night when the glass sculptures are lit up. Advance purchase is recommended for Chihuly Nights.

All photos © Jon Sobel, Critical Lens Media

Friday, July 21, 2017

Washington Commons

The design of Washington Commons – not the bar in Brooklyn, but the pretty little public space in Manhattan's West Village – makes it seem bigger on the inside, like some horticultural TARDIS. And in fact there is a bit of time travel you can do here.

washington commons west village manhattan nyc
washington commons west village manhattan nyc

Nice curves make a space welcoming, as Frederick Law Olmsted knew.

washington commons west village manhattan nyc

The little park's dominant architectural feature is its waterfall, bedecked with historical seals of the City of New York. The one with the beaver bears the slogan "SIGILLUM NOVI BELGII," "Seal of the New Belgium." Among the first settlers the Dutch West India Company plunked down in New Amsterdam were 30 French Walloon families, from a part of the then-Netherlands that became Belgium. There's a Walloon Settlers Memorial in Battery Park.

washington commons west village manhattan nyc
washington commons west village manhattan nyc
washington commons west village manhattan nyc

The designers didn't put in much in the way of seating – I suspect on purpose to discourage visits from nonresidents of the development this grudgingly public space abuts. In fact, according to The New York Times, the park "resulted from negotiations between community leaders and [the] Rockrose [Development Corporation], which needed a [zoning] variance to build a parking garage."

On a beautiful day in early summer, though, someone has realized that people do in fact enjoy a pleasant sit.

washington commons west village manhattan nyc

The trees make dappled shadows on the wavy-stoned ground.

washington commons west village manhattan nyc
washington commons west village manhattan nyc

As it happened, a work crew was replacing some of the nearby cobblestones on Jane Street. New York's original cobblestones, brought over from Europe as ballast, are more accurately called Belgian block. So everywhere you go in this neighborhood, you seem to run into Belgium – without the fat and calories of fries.

jane street cobblestones greenwich village manhattan nyc

All photos © Jon Sobel, Critical Lens Media