Riverside Park (Manhattan)


Riverside Park (Manhattan)

Infobox park
park=Riverside Park



image size=250px
caption=Springtime in Riverside Park.
type=Urban park
location=Manhattan, New York City
coordinates=coord|40|48.24|N|73|58.20|W
size_acre=266.791
size_sqmi=0.41686
operator=City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation
status=Open all year

Riverside Park is a scenic waterfront public park on the Upper West Side of the borough of Manhattan in New York City, operated and maintained by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. The park consists of a narrow four-mile (6 km) strip of land between the Hudson River and the gently curving rise-and-fall of Riverside Drive. When the park was first laid out, access to the river was blocked by the right-of-way of the New York Central Railroad West Side Line; later it was covered over with an esplanade lined with honey-locusts. It also contains part of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway which encircles Manhattan's waterfronts, with car free bike routes.

History

Frederick Law Olmsted

Construction of the park began in the early 1870s. The concept plan was drawn by Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of the nearby Central Park. Primary construction was completed in about 1910.

Robert Moses

In the 1930s, Robert Moses completed the "Westside Improvement Project" which greatly improved the park, which had become a haven for squatters. Moses's project, which included construction of the Henry Hudson Parkway, called for covering the New York Central rail line. The park and the parkway were done so skillfully that the public is generally unaware that a rail track now used by Amtrak is underneath. The project, which cost more than $100 million in the 1930s, was twice as big as the Hoover Dam project.

Moses described the area before his project as:

:"a wasteland six miles (10 km) long, stretching from where he stood all the way north to 181st street...the 'park' was nothing but a vast low-lying mass of dirt and mud. Unpainted, rusting, jagged wire fences along the tracks barred the city from its waterfront...the engines that pulled trains along the tracks burned coal or oil; from their smokestacks a dense black smog rose toward the apartment houses, coating windowsills with grit... [a stench] seemed to hang over Riverside Drive endlessly after each passage of a train carrying south to the slaughterhouses in downtown Manhattan carload after carload of cattle and pigs." [Robert A. Caro, "The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York," pp. 65-6]

Donald Trump

In the 1990s, Donald Trump and a group of Hong Kong investors agreed to expand the park by 23 acres from 72nd to 59th Street (called "Riverside Park South"). This land was originally part of the Penn Central freight rail yards (but seldom used since the 1968 merger of the financially ailing New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroad). The new park is part of the development of Trump Place, the biggest private real estate venture in New York City. Portions of the former rail yard, such as the New York Central Railroad 69th Street Transfer Bridge are incorporated into the park.

With the addition of Riverside Park South and Hudson River Park, created between Battery Park and 59th Street as part of the 1990s West Side Highway improvement, a continuous right-of-way for pedestrians and bicyclists now stretches the length of Manhattan from north to south.

Boundaries

The most used sections of Riverside Park are on the tiered slopes between the Hudson and Riverside Drive from 72nd Street to 125th Street. Riverside South extends to the south from 72nd to 59th Street on the former Penn Central yards, with an old locomotive on display. Riverside South connects to the New York Passenger Ship Terminal and Hudson River Park which goes all the way south to the tip of Manhattan. There is also a northern section of the park from 145th St. to 155th St. and adjacent to Riverbank State Park. Paths along the river connect the park to Hudson River Park to the south and Fort Washington Park to the north. The portion from 181st Street to Dyckman Street, including Inspiration Point, fell into direpair and disuse in the late 20th century, and was restored at the turn of the century.

Monuments

Notable monuments and statues in the park include the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument at 72nd Street (Penelope Jencks, sculptor), the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at 89th Street, the Joan of Arc statue at 93rd Street (Anna Hyatt Huntington, sculptor), and Grant's Tomb, New York's version of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. The numerous recreational facilities include tennis, volleyball and basketball courts; soccer fields, and a skate park that opened in the summer of 1995 at 108th St. There is a marina at 79th Street and also a kayak launch at 148th St. Before the park existed, Edgar Allan Poe liked to sit on rocky "Mount Tom" at 83rd Street. [Arthur Hobson Quinn and Shawn Rosenheim, "Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography" 1997: "a rock overlooking the Hudson, known as "Mount Tom," where he would spend hours gazing at the river."]

Riverside Park almost received a children's playground designed by the great poets of Modernist style, the architect Louis Kahn and the sculptor/architect Isamu Noguchi working in collaboration. Despite their redesigning this playground five times between 1961 and 1966, neighborhood resistance triumphed and the project was canceled by the new administration of Mayor John Lindsay.
* [http://www.noguchi.org/intextpub.html#riverside Noguchi's notes recall the unrealized project.]

Riverside Park also almost received a monument to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. A granite plaque was set in the paving at the end of the Promenade near 84th St. on October 19, 1947. It reads::"This is the site for the American memorial to the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Battle April-May 1943 and to the six million Jews of Europe martyred in the cause of human liberty."
* [http://www.columbia.edu/acis/textarchive/cjas/11/14.html Wayne Jebian, "The Missing Monument," 1995]

Recreation options

Riverside Park is enjoyed by New Yorkers and tourists of all ages. A bicycle / skating pathway, part of the Hudson River Greenway, leads from 125th Street to 72nd Street. During the spring and the summer, there is also a free kayak rental at the lower tip of the park. Kayaks may be rented only on weekends, weather-permitting. There are also many softball/baseball fields under renovation in time for the spring of 2006. Riverside Park is a getaway from distracting city life, and it is an asset for the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Park in pop culture

Some scenes were filmed, including the infamous climatic gun battle took place in "Riverside Park" in the 1974 cult classic film, "Death Wish".

One of the more memorable street gangs from the 1979 film "The Warriors", the "Baseball Furies" hail from Riverside Park. The park itself featured in two scenes from the film. Once where it was meant to be Van Cortlandt Park, another as the actual park when the Warriors are being chased by the Furies.

The park is also where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan meet at the end of the 1998 movie "You've Got Mail".

The "Seinfeld" episode "The Frogger" revolved around Jerry not wanting to go near a girlfriend's apartment near Riverside Park because of a serial killer named "The Lopper" who killed in the area.

Riverside Park Fund

Riverside Park is supported by a nonprofit partner organization, the Riverside Park Fund. In the late 1970s, New York City's park system was in bad shape - underfunded and plagued with crime. Out of this period, Riverside Park Fund emerged as a grassroots community organization formed to reclaim the park by establishing community gardens and improving park maintenance. Today, Riverside Park Fund has over 4,000 members and a budget of nearly $2 million dollars, most of which is dedicated to park programs and projects, like gardens, playgrounds, sports fields, monuments and landscaping. Riverside Park Fund's volunteers dedicate over 35,000 hours of service to the park.

See also

*The Freedom Tunnel: a shelter for the homeless and monument to the beauty of Graffiti in Riverside Park
*Giuliani (turkey), a wild turkey resident in the park

External links

* [http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_your_park/vt_riverside_park/vt_riverside_park.html New York City Parks and Recreation Dept.]
* [http://www.riversideparkfund.org Riverside Park Fund]
* [http://www.transalt.org NYC greenways]


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