A Walk In The Park: Five Neighborhood Gems

By Paula Zimmerman

Everyone has their favorite New York City park. Here are five neighborhood green spaces that I love to visit.


wash sq park

1) Washington Square Park:

Washington Square Park is a great place to chill out, and eat your lunch while being entertained by local musicians and poets. The fountain is always on during the summer, with mostly young people leaping into the six inches of water and joyfully spraying, screaming and jumping around. Although Washington Square is not as fun and freaky as it used to be, you can still hear some incredible music there, from alternative to rock to bluegrass. And there are magicians, a female soul singer and keyboardist, and bad musicians, too. It’s very peaceful to walk through, especially in the evening. While I wouldn’t step foot in Central Park after dark, I always feel safe in Washington Square. It is easily accessible from all four directions, with no stairs or hills, so perfect for seniors. Take the 8th Ave. or 6th Ave. line to West 4th St. and walk east or the R to 8th St. and walk a few blocks over from Broadway to Fifth Ave. It is bordered by Washington Square North and Washington Square West (MacDougal Street).

2)  Union Square Park:

Union Square has historically been a venue for soapbox speakers, and carries on that tradition as, on any given day, you can see some group expressing some political viewpoint, from the Occupy Movement to Code Pink to the Turkish Independence Movement. And on the southwest side, there are the Hare Krishna People with their chanting and drumming, day in and day out. If you are averse to noise and hoopla, you can retreat to the northwest or southwest regions, where you will find luxuriant old trees and picnic tables and a children’s playground, with benches on both the eastern and western sides. The R, N, Q, #6, #4, and L trains all stop at Union Square Station, right below the park. On the southwest and northeast sides, it is accessible with a small ramp, but on the northwest, there are about ten steps at both entrances.

3) Tompkins Square Park:

A great little park extending from E. 7th St. to E. 10th St. from Ave. A to Ave B, Tompkins Square has massive old trees, a playground, abundant benches and usually some musical entertainment. I would avoid the southwest corner, populated by the homeless, but the rest of the park is safe and hassle-free. In the summer, the HOWL, Lower East Side Arts Festival, happens here with all types of performance and visual art works. The park is entirely accessible from all directions, with no ramps or stairs. The 14th St. Ave. A bus lets you out on 9th St. or 7th St. or you can take the L train to 1st Ave. and walk, or the F to 2nd Ave. and wal

 4) Chelsea Waterside Park:

Developed in the last decade, Chelsea Waterside Park, is a great place to watch the boats on the Hudson, play tennis or handball, and just walk. A recent addition is a lovely carousel near the water at 23rd St. There is a vast lawn where you can picnic as well as benches and, if you are adventurous, you can climb aboard the ‘Frying Pan’, an old vessel turned restaurant and other ships docked on the West 26th St. side which offer an amazing view of The Hudson. The Pier is accessible, but a bit tricky to get to; you have to cross a crowded street and bike path. Just pay attention to the streetlights. The M23 bus lets you off on the northern side. If you like to walk, get off at the 14th St. 8th Ave. station and walk the four long avenues.

 5) Madison Square Park:

Bordered by 23rd St. – 26th St. and from Broadway to Madison Ave., this park has really seen revitalization in the past decade. Once a home to vagrants and junkies, it now sports art, theater, play areas for children, and abundant benches and one of the most popular (and expensive) cafes in the City, “The Shake Shack”, where you can buy delicious burgers, shakes, salads, and desserts. Be prepared to stand in a long line with mostly tourists. This park was brilliantly planned, with curving pathways lined with benches on either side under the luxuriant trees; gardens planted under the statues, and even a small wading pool at the northern end. Flocks of tourists and locals come here to eat their lunch; it is truly a green oasis in the middle of the urban grind. And it is all on one level, very accessible, and you can get there by the R, the N, the 6 Local, and one block over, the F, 6th Ave. line.

Paula Zimmerman is a freelance writer and a long-time NYC resident.



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