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Thursday, September 28, 2017

WNYC Transmitter Park

When I investigated WNYC Transmitter Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn back in 2010 it was nothing but a construction site.

wnyc transmitter park greenpoint brooklyn nyc

Two years later it opened to the public, transformed into a green waterfront space with excellent views.

Only five years late to the party, I arrived to check it out.

wnyc transmitter park greenpoint brooklyn nyc

I always like to see landscaping that evokes a woodland or grassland trail.

wnyc transmitter park greenpoint brooklyn nyc

Dominating the park from what would otherwise be a bleak brick wall is a huge mural of a girl with flowers by the artist Faile, part of a "street-art project." (Does "street-art" mean it's temporary? Online sources don't say.) Faile told Patch, "The idea was the timeless theme of 'love me, love me not'—aiming to depict a moment that asks the question of what kind of relationship we have with nature. Are we here to love it and take care of it or not?"

wnyc transmitter park mural greenpoint brooklyn nyc

The sheer size of the mural is astounding.

wnyc transmitter park mural greenpoint brooklyn nyc

The frog in the painting isn't the only animal in the park. Here's a real one.

wnyc transmitter park butterfly greenpoint brooklyn nyc

The park is the former home of public radio station WNYC and a ferry terminal. An entry on the website of the New York City Economic Development Corporation's website at the time of the 2012 opening states: "The former WNYC radio broadcasting building was converted into a café." But if that was meant to happen, it hasn't. Dwarfed by a spectacular willow tree, the building is closed up and appears to be just a historical relic.

wnyc transmitter park greenpoint brooklyn nyc

In fact, the Friends of WNYC Transmitter Park (every park needs an advocacy organization these days) has a petition to stop the opening of a bar/café here. The Friends want instead to convert the building into a "botanical learning center surrounded by gardens featuring native species," DNAInfo reported in April.

There are two more reasons to oppose a bar/café within the park. First, there's a small playground.

wnyc transmitter park greenpoint brooklyn nyc

And second, there's already a party boat, the Brooklyn Barge, next door.

wnyc transmitter park greenpoint brooklyn nyc

The sign etched into the side of the old transmitter building (with contrast increased for readability) says:

CITY OF NEW YORK
DEPARTMENT OF PLANT AND STRUCTURES
TRANSMITTER HOUSE
RADIO STATION
WNYC
1936

with the names of Mayor F.H. LaGuardia and Commissioner F.J.H. Kracke. LaGuardia's connection to WNYC was a deep one. The station's Wikipedia page shows a photo of him in the studio broadcasting his "Talk to the People" program in 1940. WNYC-AM broadcast from here from 1937 to 1990.

wnyc transmitter park greenpoint brooklyn nyc

As for Mr. Kracke, the portfolio of his Department of Plant and Structures included bus and trolley transportation along with, evidently, either communications or buildings (or both). Though long defunct, the department lives on in the wall here in Transmitter Park – and in the suspicious smirks of its 1922 women's basketball team.

The park was well used on this warm September weekend…

wnyc transmitter park greenpoint brooklyn nyc
wnyc transmitter park greenpoint brooklyn nyc
wnyc transmitter park greenpoint brooklyn nyc

…though only a few were taking the long walk out over the water for a better view of the Manhattan skyline – from the Empire State Building to the UN and the slant-roofed Citicorp Tower.

wnyc transmitter park greenpoint brooklyn nyc
wnyc transmitter park greenpoint brooklyn nyc manhattan skyline

What will we find in Transmitter Park in another five years? Who can say? Does anything ever stay the same in New York City? Or anywhere?

All photos © Jon Sobel, Critical Lens Media

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Gardens at St. Luke's

The Gardens at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields were resplendent in green when we stopped by in mid-August. Open to the public most days, the private gardens of the 1821 West Village church date from the 1950s.

gardens church st lukes in the fields manhattan nyc

A brochure available in the Gardens describes "more than two-thirds of an acre of walks, lawns, and a fine collection of garden standards, rare hybrids and native American flora," and "a small but important way-station for migrating birds and butterflies during the spring and fall seasons," with "heat-retaining brick walls" that "create a warm microclimate."

gardens church st lukes in the fields manhattan nyc
gardens church st lukes in the fields manhattan nyc

It's a peaceful retreat for a quiet read.

gardens church st lukes in the fields manhattan nyc

The planting is so dense it can almost feel tropical.

gardens church st lukes in the fields manhattan nyc

Well into the summer, there remained plenty of color to please the eye.

gardens church st lukes in the fields manhattan nyc

No one talks about pavement. But I'm partial to bluestone paving. (Speaking of color.)

gardens church st lukes in the fields manhattan nyc

This is one of those places you can lose yourself, forget you're in the city. As Atlas Obscura observes, "Although the garden is scattered with benches, few are regularly occupied. The occasional West Village resident ducks in to read or snack or sit, but no one within the garden's confines generally speaks louder than a whisper."

It's perfectly appropriate that this place should be a peaceful refuge. Nearly 200 years ago, the founders of the Church of St. Luke in the Fields named their new congregation after the physician evangelist "in recognition," the church's website explains, "of the village's role as a refuge from the yellow fever epidemics that plagued New York City during the summers" – a reminder, among other things, of a time when Greenwich Village was an actual village. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation describes people beset by yellow fever and cholera in the late 18th and early 19th centuries fleeing "north to the wholesome backwaters of the West Village," where the population quadrupled from 1825 to 1840.

gardens church st lukes in the fields manhattan nyc

There's no population explosion here, though. Just an explosion of flora.

All photos © Jon Sobel, Critical Lens Media

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Sutton Place Park

Checking Google Maps to remind myself where Greenacre Park was in preparation for my recent visit there, I noticed a tiny sliver of green all the way to the east, hugging the FDR Drive between 53rd and 54th Streets. Couldn't be a park, I thought. But I zoomed in, and sure enough:

Sutton Place Park is indeed tiny, but it's a park all right.

sutton place park manhattan nyc
sutton place park manhattan nyc
sutton place park manhattan nyc

Complete with landscaping, a curved path, plants and flowers, and locals relaxing and walking dogs, Sutton Place Park (or Sutton Place Park South, to distinguish it from Sutton Place's enclosed vest-pocket parks) is dedicated to landscape architect Clara Coffey (1894–1982), who became the Parks Department's Chief of Tree Plantings in 1936.

sutton place park manhattan nyc

Coffey supervised numerous landscaping projects, including the Park Avenue Malls. At the base of a handsome urn decorated with Greek-style reliefs in a small garden (a onetime sandbox) in Sutton Place Park, a stone plaque commemorates her work.

sutton place park manhattan nyc
sutton place park manhattan nyc

There's even an armillary sundial (or armillary sphere), like the one on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade but more ornate. Albert Stewart designed it, inspired by Ancient Greek astronomical models.

sutton place park manhattan nyc
sutton place park manhattan nyc

Look out over the East River and you'll see Roosevelt Island's Smallpox Memorial Hospital, which is just north of Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park at the southern tip of that island, and beyond it the now landmarked Pepsi sign just north of Gantry Plaza State Park, where a landing just opened for the newest NYC Ferry line, the Astoria Route.

sutton place park manhattan nyc

Everywhere you look in New York City, there's a park. And another park beyond that one. And another one beyond that.

All photos © Jon Sobel, Critical Lens Media

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Greenacre Park

"Greenacre Park." Sounds homespun and country-ish, right? But Greenancre Park in East Midtown Manhattan is exactly the opposite: planned, artsy, sculptured to within an inch of its life. And yet a peaceful oasis of relief in a busy, blocky neighborhood with very few such.

greenacre park manhattan nyc

Upon entering you're greeted with a block-paved plaza with tables. It looks more like a sparsely furnished outdoor cafe than a park. And, in fact, a prominent sign points you to Carol's Cafe, a refreshment window tucked into the southwestern corner.

greenacre park manhattan nyc
Carol's Cafe, Greenacre Park, morning. (It gets busier at lunchtime.)

But step in a little further, keep your ears open, and the park's most unusual feature begins to dominate: a loud, 25-foot-high, granite waterfall, really a water sculpture. The mechanism pumps 2,500 gallons of water per minute to keep the roaring sheet of liquid in action.

greenacre park manhattan nyc

The raised terrace under the trellis roof on the west side is part of Hideo Sasaki's design, which reflects – to my unpracticed eye, anyway – a Japanese influence. The layout of the park's mere one-seventh of an acre "conveys an impression of far greater size through a series of well-defined, separate spaces, lush planting, textural variation, and the dramatic use of water," according to the Cultural Landscape Foundation.

greenacre park manhattan nyc
greenacre park manhattan nyc

The terrace offers a view of the waterfall from above. amNewYork's Mark Chiusano interviewed me here for the article about Park Odyssey he wrote for the paper a few weeks ago, and was kind enough to pose for my camera before I did so for his.

greenacre park waterfall manhattan nyc
greenacre park waterfall manhattan nyc

The water theme extends to a stream that runs along the edge, visible clearly from the street but easy to miss amid the raucous excitement of the waterfall.

greenacre park manhattan nyc

Privately owned and managed by the Greenacre Foundation, the park opened in 1971 on East 51st St. between Second and Third Avenues with the hope that the people of New York City "will find here some moments of serenity in this busy world" in the words of the founder, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé.

greenacre park manhattan nyc

I had been by a few times before, but the park had always turned out to be closed. It's open from March to December, but not late into the evening. Google tells me the hours are 8AM to 8PM, but I recommend stopping by during business hours on a weekday, when you can observe not only the park but some of the people who work in the neighborhood taking a well-deserved artificial-nature break – and take one yourself.

Walk close to the waterfall and I can almost guarantee you won't hear a spit of noise from the street.

All photos © Jon Sobel, Critical Lens Media

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