Saturday, November 26, 2011
Paley Park is one of the great small urban spaces. A simple rectangle, a couple of steps up from the sidewalk of 53rd Street, the park is backed by a 20-foot high waterfall that drowns out the noise of midtown Manhattan, with ivy-covered walls on each side, and tall, elegant Locust trees reaching upward for the light. Hidden between tall buildings, the park is a visual stunner. As you walk by and glimpse it unexpectedly, the welcoming open space and the sound of the waterfall draw you in. The experience is like an epiphany.
I rarely pass it, but last week I attended a day long event at the Museum of Modern Art. That brought me by Paley Park, both coming and going. Cameraless on such occasions, I took these photos, near dusk, on my cell phone.
I first visited this park in 1973, discovering it during a lunch hour walk from my work place near the UN. I loved the park then and I still do now. I can't say it's changed much over those intervening 38 years. It's still magical.
Small tables and movable Bertoia chairs allow park users to arrange seating as they wish. It's informal, practicle, and beautiful.
The park was opened in 1967, a gift of William S. Paley, the chairman of CBS. Though it was designed by Zion and Breene Associates, Paley took a direct hand in the design.