Top Public Park In New York City
Thomas Jefferson Park
City-owned space for indoor & outdoor recreation, with a track, sports facilities & an outdoor pool.New York, NY
Park offering scenic elevated views, a large pool, sports facilities & the city's oldest bridge. New York, NY
Bronx Park, laid out on 718 acres along the Bronx River in the Bronx, New York City, is the home of the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo.
Hunters Point South Park
Popular urban park offers a waterfront promenade, green space, playground, dog run & cafe plaza.
Boasting historic hand-carved horses, this carousel is one of the largest in the country. New York, NY
John Jay Park
Community park with basketball & handball courts, playgrounds & an outdoor swimming pool. New York, NY
Serene, intimate urban park featuring ivy walls & a waterfall, plus chairs & tables. New York, NY
Neighborhood park with trails, a lake, dozens of exotic tree species, sports facilities & fishing. Fresh Meadows, NY
This public park offers soccer & baseball fields, tennis & basketball courts & a kids' playground. Brooklyn, NY
Marcus Garvey Park
Public space with a community center, 2 playgrounds, drawbridges, an outdoor pool & summer concerts. New York, NY
Compact, shaded urban park featuring a 25-ft. waterfall, moveable tables & chairs & an outdoor cafe. New York, NY
Carl Schurz Park
Popular, venerated park offering river vistas, multiple dog runs, playgrounds & other features. New York, NY
Inwood Hill Park
Historical & hilly green space with a long river front, sports areas & NYC's last natural forest. New York, NY
Madison Square Park
Public green space featuring sculptures, a dog run & views of the Flatiron Building. New York, NY
As a new immigrant to the United States of America, I wanted to learn as much as I can about this new land in my life. I grew up in Bangladesh and always heard of all great things about this beautiful country. It is known as the great land of opportunity. When I came to America and New York City as my new home, I noticed that it was very easy to enjoy this marvelous city on a tight budget. The past leaders and the current leaders are doing a great job in maintaining this beautiful city. The great architecture and history are all over the city. It just takes awhile to find your way around, and with the disability of being a foreigner, it is very hard to navigate around the city. This web page is a simple collection of some of the nicest parks in the city with some background info to give the visitor a more literary experience. This website is to provide the help that I wish I had at my fingertips when I was doing my exploration of this beautiful city. Public parks are found in cities and towns. A public park is a kind of pleasure-garden where the people of the urban community sit and enjoy.
A public park is raised and maintained on a planned basis. It is fenced all around with the iron bars with gates for entrance and exit. It is full of beautiful plants and creepers which are filled with beautiful seasonal flowers. Lots of beautiful green grass cover the ground-floor. Little flowers of unknown variety peep out of the green waves of grasses. The flower plants hold the flowers of unique beauty. Some trees are famous for their evergreen foliage. Many kinds of beautiful foreign herbs are planted in the park.
The public park provides comfortable sitting arrangements for the visitors. Hence, we find fixed chairs and fixed benches at the suitable spots in the park. The park provides electric light and radio broadcasting. The park provides artificial springs of water. In a very big park, we find some swimming pools and arrangements for boating and racing.
It is true that public parks are necessary for the healthy and happiness of the town-dwellers. However, it is a pity that most of the Indian towns go without a single park. The cities of India may possess some parks. However, such parks are not well-equipped. They are not up to the standard. They are not sufficient for the large population of a city. Hence, it is suggested that our parks should be multiplied by the number. They should be upgraded, and their standard should be raised.
The following information from NYC Parks
Thomas Jefferson Park
This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park. During the course of his forty years in public life, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) had a profound influence on the formation of the American legal and political system. He began his career as a lawyer and a farmer and became a champion of equal rights, religious freedom and public education. In 1776 Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence. He went on to serve as governor of Virginia (1779-81), minister to France (1785-89), and Secretary of State under Washington (1790-93). He was elected Vice President in 1796 and then served two terms as President from 1801-1809. Aside from his political influence, Jefferson’s legacy includes creating the decimal monetary system and founding and designing the University of Virginia.
This park was planned and named by the Board of Aldermen in 1894, though the land for it was not purchased until 1897. It opened on October 7, 1905 to provide organized play to the children of "Little Italy," as the crowded tenement district in East Harlem was then known. The park contained two playgrounds, two gymnasiums, baths, comfort stations, and a classical pavilion which provided shelter and recreation space. The structure stood at 112th Street and East River Drive until the 1970s when it was destroyed by vandals. A children’s farm garden, one of many which flourished in parks in the first half of the 20th century, opened on May 20, 1911 with 1008 plots for children to grow flowers and vegetables. Designed as a place of respite for child laborers, the farm garden later hosted nature study classes and, during the World Wars, provided a lesson in self-sufficiency for local children.
The park’s facilities were expanded in the 1930s according to the vision of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses. June 27, 1936 marked the dedication of the second of ten pools to open that summer. Ten thousand people attended the ceremony celebrating "the last word in engineering, hygiene and construction." Boccie courts were also added around this time. The playgound adjacent to Benjamin Franklin High School has been open since 1942. The school was renamed the Manhattan Center for Math and Science in 1982.
A renovation of the pool and recreation center was completed in 1992 by architect Richard Dattner under a $10.5 million capital project. The park was newly landscaped and reconstructed in 1994. The center’s programming includes boxing, fencing, martial arts, and aerobics, and the ballfields are popular with East Harlem teams. The park features two sculptures that were commissioned and installed in 1995 through a joint effort by Parks and the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program: Tomorrow’s Wind by Melvin Edwards and El Arbor De Esperanza, or Tree of Hope, by L. Brower Hatcher.
Highbridge Park derives its name from New York City’s oldest standing bridge, the High Bridge (1848), which was built to carry the Old Croton Aqueduct over the Harlem River. From the 17th to the 19th centuries, the area was sparsely populated with scattered farms and private estates. During the American Revolution, the Battle of Fort Washington took place in the vicinity. General George Washington used the Morris-Jumel Mansion, adjacent to the southern end of the park near Edgecombe Avenue and West 160th Street, as his headquarters in September and October of 1776.
The High Bridge was once part of the first reliable and uninterrupted water supply system in New York City. As the City was devastated by fire and disease in 1830s, the inadequacy of the water system of wells-and-cisterns became apparent. Numerous corrective measures were examined. In the final analysis only the Croton River, located in northern Westchester County was found to be sufficient in quantity and quality to serve the needs of the City. The delivery system was begun in 1837, and was completed in 1848.
The Old Croton Aqueduct was the first of its kind ever constructed in the United States. The innovative system used a gravity feed, running 41 miles into New York City through an enclosed masonry structure crossing ridges, valleys, and rivers. The High Bridge soars 138 feet above the 620 foot-wide Harlem River, with a total length of 1450 feet. The bridge was designed with a pedestrian walkway atop the Aqueduct and was not used for vehicular traffic. In the 1920s the bridge's center masonry arches were declared a hazard to navigation and replaced by a single steel span.
The area that is today's Highbridge Park was assembled piecemeal between 1867 and the 1960s, with the bulk being acquired through condemnation from 1895 to 1901. The cliffside area from West 181st Street to Dyckman Street was acquired in 1902, and the parcel including Fort George Hill was acquired in 1928. In 1934 the Department of Parks obtained the majestic Highbridge Tower and the site of old High Bridge Reservoir.
One of Manhattan’s most picturesque landmarks, the water tower has looked over old High Bridge and the Harlem River valley since 1872. In 1958 the tower was rehabilitated and outfitted with a five-octave carillon in memory of Benjamin Altman. The Highbridge Recreation Center and Pool were erected on the site of the former reservoir in 1936. The facility at Highbridge Park was one of eleven city pools built with labor supplied by the Works Progress Association and opened during the hot summer of 1936. The High Bridge and surrounding land came under Parks jurisdiction in 1960.
In addition to the High Bridge, water tower, and recreation center, Highbridge Park boasts important natural assets including open vistas and an unusual geologic makeup. Among its strongest features are the magnificent cliffs and large rock outcroppings that dominate the park. Today, community groups such as the Friends of Highbridge Park and the New York Restoration Project work in conjunction with the Urban Park Rangers to improve the park for everyone.
Central Park was the first landscaped public park in the United States. Advocates of creating the park--primarily wealthy merchants and landowners--admired the public grounds of London and Paris and urged that New York needed a comparable facility to establish its international reputation. A public park, they argued, would offer their own families an attractive setting for carriage rides and provide working-class New Yorkers with a healthy alternative to the saloon. After three years of debate over the park site and cost, in 1853 the state legislature authorized the City of New York to use the power of eminent domain to acquire more than 700 acres of land in the center of Manhattan.
An irregular terrain of swamps and bluffs, punctuated by rocky outcroppings, made the land between Fifth and Eighth avenues and 59th and 106th streets undesirable for private development. Creating the park, however, required displacing roughly 1,600 poor residents, including Irish pig farmers and German gardeners, who lived in shanties on the site. At Eighth Avenue and 82nd Street, Seneca Village had been one of the city's most stable African-American settlements, with three churches and a school. The extension of the boundaries to 110th Street In 1863 brought the park to its current 843 acres.
The question of who should exercise political control of this new kind of public institution was a point of contention throughout the nineteenth century. In appointing the first Central Park Commission (1857-1870), the Republican-dominated state legislature abandoned the principle of "home rule" in order to keep the park out of the hands of locally-elected (and primarily Democratic) office holders. Under the leadership of Andrew Green, the commission became the city's first planning agency and oversaw the laying out of uptown Manhattan as well as the management of the park. After a new city charter in 1870 restored the park to local control, the mayor appointed park commissioners.
John Jay Park
Situated on the East River, John Jay Park is named for a New York jurist and statesman. John Jay (1745-1829) was elected President of the First Continental Congress in 1778. He drafted New York's first constitution in 1777, was appointed Minister to Spain in 1779, and negotiated the peace treaty with England in 1783. With Hamilton and Madison he wrote The Federalist Papers (1787), which advocated the new Constitution. Jay then served as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1789-1795). In his last political position, he was elected for two consecutive terms as the Governor of New York (1795-1801).
The first parcel of land for John Jay Park was acquired by the City in 1902 by condemnation. In 1906 a public bathhouse was constructed for $104,843.92 and was under the jurisdiction of the Manhattan Borough President's Office until the site was transferred to the Parks Department in 1941.
The swimming complex was opened in stages between 1940 and 1942 as part of a massive Work Projects Administration (WPA) capital construction program. The outdoor swimming pool was opened in 1940 and measured 50 by 145 feet. Legend has it that Parks Commissioner Robert Moses required the pool to be five feet short of the length necessary for 150-foot sprints. In 1941 the bathhouse was remodeled and reopened with an auditorium, large recreation room, gym, and changing facility which could accommodate 1,002 male and 590 female bathers. Systems were installed to filter, purify, and re-circulate the water, and a large promenade around the pool was constructed.
Also in 1941, an aquatic program, which provided for group swimming lessons, diving tournaments, inter-pool contests, water shows, and life saving and first aid classes, was initiated. The WPA swimming pools were among the most remarkable public recreational facilities in the country, representing the forefront of design and technology. The influence of the pools extended throughout entire communities, attracting aspiring athletes and neighborhood children, and changing the way millions of New Yorkers spent their leisure time.
Douglas Abdell's (1947-) sculptures were installed on the west side of the park in 1979. Made of welded steel, painted black, they are meant to frame space and define irregular areas. The artist likens his works, part of "The Aebyad Series" to writing and calligraphy. He views each sculpture as a building block of something potentially more complex, as the alphabet is the basis of the written language.
In 1985-86, Mayor Edward I. Koch allocated $807,570 for renovation and restoration of the park. The children's playground was remodeled with slides, bridges, swings, sandboxes, and sprinkler area. Trees and groundcover were planted. New lighting and pavement were installed, and the existing pavement, curbs, and stone walls were rehabilitated. A wrought iron fence was relocated to enclose the pool area, and all other wrought iron and chain link fences were refurbished. New benches were installed and the water supply was improved as drainage was reconstructed. In the final phase, the central mall and esplanade were refurbished, additional pavement was installed, and drinking fountains, game tables, and fences were added. In 1995 all the climbing equipment, decks, gates, and handrails were restored and replaced. A park well cared for by its neighbors, John Jay Park remains an active and vital center of the Upper East Side Community.
Paley Park was so named by former Chairman of CBS, William Paley, whose foundation funded the project as both a memorial to his father and a prototype for a new kind of privately-owned public space. Paley worked with landscape architects Zion & Breene Associates to design every aspect of the park on a site measuring only one-tenth of an acre. The park was an immediate success, and since its opening in 1967 it has become a model for privately-owned public spaces in New York City. Paley Park was featured in William H. Whyte’s film The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980), which rigorously documented how people use the space throughout the day.
Paley Park’s popularity is due to its design that provides a quiet escape from the city in Midtown Manhattan. Every detail of the park was crafted in order to mitigate city noise and create a peaceful space in the middle of urban life. To help prevent sound from directly entering from the street and to create a sense of privacy in the space, the entire park is slightly elevated from street-level by several steps. The dense ivy on the walls and the low tree canopy work as a sound barrier and the waterfall feature on the back wall produces white noise that drowns out the sounds of the city. In designing the park, the comfort of its visitors was the top priority for William Paley and his landscape architects. For this reason, they opted for light, moveable mesh chairs and tables that gave people options and flexibility in choosing where and how they want to organize themselves. Even though Paley Park feels like a quiet, private oasis, it is heavily used due to its central location and design that makes it easily accessible and visible to passersby on the street.
Kissena Park is an ideal location to both relax and participate in fun outdoor activities. The beautiful Kissena Lake, flanked by weeping willows and shady trees, creates an idyllic setting to enjoy a sunny day. Stroll through the park to take in all of the lush flora and fauna and be sure not to miss the historic tree grove. The dozens of species of trees in the grove are some of the most exotic in the world. In fact, the grove got its start as part of a 19th century horticultural nursery for the New York region.
After taking in the beauty of Kissena Park, get active at one of the park’s many recreational facilities. Try and beat your best time on the bike at the Kissena Park Velodrome. Or play a round of golf at the Kissena public course. And of course there are lots of playgrounds, baseball diamonds, and tennis and handball courts for all to use. So whether or not you are looking for some action or you’d prefer some rest and relaxation, Kissena Park is the perfect venue.
Straddling Brooklyn and Queens, Highland Park is situated on a high plateau that commands dramatic views of nearby cemeteries, East New York, Woodhaven, the Rockaways, and the Atlantic Ocean. In 1856 the City of Brooklyn acquired land here for the site of the Ridgewood Reservoir, which operated from the 1860s until 1985. In 1891 the City of Brooklyn purchased the land surrounding the reservoir for park purposes under the jurisdiction of the Highland Park Society.
The Brooklyn Department of Parks initiated substantial improvements to the property, then known as Ridgewood Park. Between 1901 and 1905 several new structures were built, including a combined music stand and tool house, a shelter house, a rustic bridge, and two rustic arbors. Landscaping efforts laid out roads and footpaths, created a new lake with a fountain, and reclaimed a swamp for the site of a flower garden. The 1905 Department of Parks Annual Report noted that "It was the general consensus of opinion that this flower garden was one of the most unique and superb seen in any of the parks hereabouts."
Also in 1905, Parks extended the property to the south by purchasing the Schenck estate, which included a Dutch-style farmhouse. Johannes Schenck emigrated from Holland to the colony of New York in 1683 and worked as a teacher and town clerk in Flatbush, New York, and Bushwick. Sources differ as to whether Johannes or one of his descendants built the farmhouse which stood on the road from New Lots to Jamaica; reported dates of construction range between 1686 and 1765. After the Schenck family sold the property in 1905, the farmhouse served as a club house, a lunch room, and a storage facility for Highland Park. It was removed after 1940.
Highland Park took its present shape in 1906-08, when Parks acquired a third parcel to the west from the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity. The park became a favorite spot for the people of Brooklyn and Queens. Athletes could play on football fields, baseball fields, and 28 tennis courts—and skate on the frozen pond in winter. An aquatic garden with water lilies and other water plants was created in 1907, and the children’s farm gardens were planted in 1915. The Dawn of Glory World War I monument by sculptor Pietro Montana was dedicated in 1925.
Recent projects have improved recreational and educational facilities at Highland Park. In 1991 the westernmost parcel was named Vito P. Battista Playground in memory of the architect, educator, and civic activist who served on Community School Board 19 and Community Planning Board 5. With assistance from the GreenThumb program, students from P.S. 140 in Bushwick revived the children’s farm gardens in 1991, and students from P.S. 771 in Brighton Beach have joined with GreenThumb to maintain the gardens. In 1998 the playground in Upper Highland Park was renovated. The two-phase requirements contract provided new playground equipment, safety surfacing, and asphalt.
As Parks employees, volunteers, and students help to maintain and improve the park, nature also lends a hand. Ridgewood Reservoir has not been in use since 1989; the last of its three sections was drained in that year. Trees, shrubs, and other plants have taken root in the three basins, creating a thriving young forest on the site of the former reservoir.
Marcus Garvey Park
Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1887-1940) was an advocate for economic independence within the black community and also became a proponent of black nationalism. He was born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica on August 17, 1887 and immigrated to Harlem in 1916, where in 1918 Garvey established the headquarters of his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). At the UNIA’s first convention, held at Madison Square Garden in 1920, Garvey declared his plans to build an independent nation for black Americans in West Africa. The group promoted black economic self-sufficiency, publishing the Negro World newspaper and establishing black-owned businesses. Garvey founded his own shipping line, the Black Star Shipping Line, to finance these projects. Garvey’s plans foundered after his conviction for mail fraud in 1923 following the failure of his shipping line and increasing government scrutiny. After Garvey served two years in prison, President Calvin Coolidge commuted his sentence, and in 1927 he was deported to Jamaica.
The social and political history of this site reaches back into the early colonial period. Dutch settlers referred to the park as “Slangberg,” or Snake Hill, because of its reptile population. British fortifications on the site guarded the Harlem River during the Revolutionary War. The Common Council considered razing the hilly area in 1835 to accommodate new streets but local citizens successfully petitioned to preserve it as a public park. It opened as Mount Morris Park in 1840.
Although the park’s natural features have been preserved, a number of architectural elements have been added over time. A fire watchtower was designed by Julius Kroehl and erected in 1856 at a time when fire was capable of destroying a city largely constructed of wood. The 47-foot cast-iron tower is unique in the United States, and was designated a landmark in 1967. A reconstruction of Mount Morris Park in the 1930's added a community center and a child health station. Current facilities include the Pelham Fritz Recreation Center, named for a reknowned Parks employee, an amphitheater and a swimming pool. Capital projects completed in 2002, 2004 and 2005 have improved the pool entrance, added new safety surfaces and landscaped the park. The Marcus Garvey Park Alliance community group organizes a variety of cultural events in addition to supporting capital projects. Mount Morris Park was renamed for Marcus Garvey in 1973.
Greenacre Park is a "vest-pocket" park—a style of urban open space popularized in the 1970s in response to the high cost of city center land, high intensity of use, and the need to secure the park after hours. Sasaki provided architecture and landscape architecture for the park, which measures 60 feet by 120 feet and features multi-level sitting areas integrated with plantings and water displays.
A water sculpture outside the park serves as an invitation to enter. A trellis articulates the entry to the park and leads to the central sitting area, which is slightly elevated above the sidewalk. The main sitting area accommodates informal groupings of tables and chairs. Ample seating walls and broad steps provide additional places to sit during peak times such as lunch hour and a small snack bar serves food and coffee throughout the day.
Honey locust trees allow sunlight to penetrate into the area and, at the same time, create a protective canopy to screen out adjacent buildings. The entire length of one wall is a relief sculpture. Water trickles over its surface into a runnel which leads, in turn, to a main fountain at the end of the park. Water cascades over the granite face, producing a strong visual focus as well as a sound-screen against traffic noise outside.
The lower-level sitting area at the base of the water display provides visitors a more immediate sense of contact with the water. Along the adjacent wall, a raised terrace allows an overview of the whole park and an elevated view of the water display. This terrace is roofed with a trellis and acrylic domes, and is equipped with lighting and radiant heating for evening and cold weather use.
The landscape materials provide a soft contrast to the granite, brick, and steel. Evergreens—rhododendron, azalea, Japanese holly, and andromeda— are planted amid a pachysandra ground cover. A star magnolia, azaleas, and rhododendron provide early spring blossoms. Seasonal flowers fill urns which are placed informally about the park, and Boston ivy on the brick walls turns a brilliant red color in early fall.
Carl Schurz Park
Carl Schurz Park, named by the Board of Aldermen in 1910 for the soldier, statesman, and journalist Carl Schurz (1829-1906), overlooks the turbulent waters of Hell Gate. The first known Dutch owner of the land was Sybout Claessen who was granted the property in 1646 by the Dutch West India Company. Jacob Walton, a subsequent owner, built the first house on the site in 1770. During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army built a fort surrounding the Walton residence to guard the strategic shipping passage of Hell Gate. After a British attack on September 8, 1776, the house was destroyed and the Americans were forced to retreat from the fort, which the British retained until the end of the war in 1783.
The land was purchased from Walton's heirs in 1798 by Archibald Gracie, a Scottish shipping magnate. He built a mansion there in 1799, where his illustrious guests included future United States president John Quincy Adams and future French king Louis Phillippe. The estate, sold by Gracie in 1819, was acquired by the City from the Wheaton family in 1891. The first home of the Museum of the City of New York, from 1924-32, the mansion has served as the official residence of New York's mayors since Fiorello LaGuardia moved there in 1942.
The southern portion of the park was set aside by the City as East River Park in 1876. The former Gracie estate was added in 1891 and a new landscape design by Calvert Vaux and Samuel Parsons was completed in 1902. Maud Sargent relandscaped the park in 1939 when the East River Drive underpass was under construction. Charles Haffen's sculpture of Peter Pan, created in 1928 for a fountain in the lobby of the old Paramount Theater, was installed in the park in 1975.
The park name honors Schurz, a native of Cologne, Germany. It was strongly supported by the large German community of adjacent Yorkville. After emigrating to the United States in 1852, Schurz quickly made his reputation as a skilled orator and proved to be instrumental to Abraham Lincoln's 1860 election campaign. His most significant political offices were that of United States Senator from Missouri (1869-1875), and Secretary of the Interior (1877-81) during the Hayes administration. In his later years, Schurz was editor of the New York Tribune and an editorial writer for Harper's Weekly. Schurz is also honored by Karl Bitter's statue of 1913, located at Morningside Drive and 116th Street.
Recent improvements include rebuilding of the stairs, the complete restoration of the playground and the opening of Carl's Dog Run. These and other projects, including the planting of flowers, have been accomplished through a partnership between Parks and the Carl Schurz Park Association, which has demonstrated the community's commitment to restoring, maintaining, and preserving this park since it formed in 1974.
Inwood Hill Park
Inwood Hill Park contains the last natural forest and salt marsh in Manhattan. It is unclear how the park received its present name. Before becoming parkland in 1916, it was known during the Colonial and post-Revolutionary War period as Cock or Cox Hill. The name could be a variant of the Native American name for the area, Shorakapok, meaning either “the wading place,” “the edge of the river,” or “the place between the ridges.”
Human activity has been present in Inwood Hill Park from prehistoric times. Through the 17th century, Native Americans known as the Lenape (Delawares) inhabited the area. There is evidence of a main encampment along the eastern edge of the park. The Lenape relied on both the Hudson and Harlem Rivers as sources for food. Artifacts and the remains of old campfires were found in Inwood’s rock shelters, suggesting their use for shelter and temporary living quarters.
In 1954 the Peter Minuit Post of the American Legion dedicated a plaque at the southwest corner of the ballfield (at 214th Street) to mark the location of a historic tree and a legendary real estate transaction. A living link with the local Indians who resided in the area, a magnificent tulip tree stood and grew on that site for 280 years until its death in 1938. The marker also honors Peter Minuit’s reputed purchase of Manhattan from the Lenape in 1626. The celebrated sale has also been linked to sites in Lower Manhattan.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, colonists from Europe settled and farmed here. During the Revolutionary War, American forces built a five-sided earthwork fort (known as Fort Cock or Fort Cox) in the northwestern corner of the park. It fell to British and Hessian troops in November 1776 and was held until the war ended in 1783. After the Revolutionary War, families returned to the area to resume farming.
In the 1800s much of present-day Inwood Hill Park contained country homes and philanthropic institutions. There was a charity house for women, and a free public library (later the Dyckman Institute) was formed. The Straus family (who owned Macy’s) enjoyed a country estate in Inwood; its foundation is still present. Isidor and Ida Straus lost their lives on the S.S. Titanic’s maiden voyage. When the Department of Parks bought land for the park in 1916, the salt marsh was saved and landscaped; a portion of the marsh was later landfilled. The buildings on the property were demolished. During the Depression the City employed WPA workers to build many of the roads and trails of Inwood Hill Park.
In 1992 Council Member Stanley E. Michels introduced legislation, which was enacted, to name the natural areas of Inwood Hill Park “Shorakapok” in honor of the Lenape who once resided here. In 1995 the Inwood Hill Park Urban Ecology Center was opened. It provides information to the public about the natural and cultural history of this beautiful park. Today the Urban Park Rangers work with school children on restoration projects to improve the health and appearance of the park. Complementing the work of the Rangers is that of dozens of Inwood “Vols” (Volunteers), who assist with park restoration and beautification.
Madison Square Park
Madison Square Park is named for James Madison (1751-1836), a Virginian who was the fourth President of the United States (1809-17). Madison earned the title “father of the Constitution,” from his peers in the Constitutional Convention. He also co-authored The Federalist Papers (1787-88) with New Yorkers Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. Madison was Secretary of State from 1801-09, serving through both of President Thomas Jefferson's terms. As President, he was Commander-in-Chief during the War of 1812 with the British. Madison was the rector of the University of Virginia from 1827 until he died in 1836.
The largest parcel of this land was first designated as public property when Royal Governor Thomas Dongan revised the City Charter in 1686. Since then, this area has been used for a variety of public purposes. A potter's field was established here in 1794, and then was moved in 1797 to Washington Square. By 1811 the land was home to a United States Army Arsenal (1806) and laid out as part of a military parade ground (named for Madison in 1814), bounded by 3rd and 7th Avenues and 23rd and 34th Streets. The arsenal fell out of military use, and served as a “House of Refuge” for juvenile delinquents from 1825 until 1839, when it was destroyed by fire.
After being leveled, sodded, and enclosed, Madison Square Park opened to the public on May 10, 1847, with boundaries of Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenues and 23rd and 26th Streets. Citizens quickly claimed the public park as their own. Their protests against plans to erect the Crystal Palace here in 1853 resulted in its relocation to Bryant Park. Nevertheless, the park has been host to grand celebrations, replete with temporary decorative arches, to commemorate historic occasions and anniversaries such as the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1876 and the triumphant return of Admiral Dewey from the Spanish American War in 1899.
The original Madison Square Garden was located adjacent to the park at Madison Avenue and 26th Street. It was owned by William Vanderbilt, and opened in 1879. The building was razed in 1899 and replaced with a Moorish style building designed by Stanford White. The second Madison Square Garden stood until 1925 when it was demolished and replaced by the headquarters of the New York Life Insurance Company. Promoter Tex Rickard built the third Garden that same year at 8th Avenue and 50th Street.
Soon after the creation of the Department of Public Parks in 1870, the square was relandscaped by Ignatz Pilat, Chief Landscape Architect, and William Grant. The new design brought in the sculptures that now highlight the park. One of the works capturing a politician in bronze is Randolph Ranger's statue of William H. Seward (1876), the Secretary of State who purchased Alaska in 1867. He was the first New Yorker to have a monument erected in his honor. Others include J.Q.A. Ward’s sculpture of Roscoe Conkling (1893), a reconstructionist politician; and George Edwin Bissell’s monument to Chester Alan Arthur (1898), the 21st American President. War heroes are represented by James Goodwin Batterson's monument to General Worth (1854-1857), the Mexican War veteran who is buried just west of Madison Square, and the Admiral Farragut monument, Augustus St. Gaudens’ first major work that was dedicated in 1881 to the Civil War naval officer. Other features are the ornamental fountain (1867) and the Eternal Light Flagpole (1923).
Thomas Jefferson Park
Marcus Garvey Park
Inwood Hill Park
Madison Square Park
Hunters Point South Park
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John Jay Park
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Carl Schurz Park
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