Washington Square Park | A Vibrant Meeting Place

by NYJ Team

Washington Square Park, at the foot of New York’s Fifth Avenue, in the heart of Greenwich Village, is an almost 10-acre park that serves as campus green for nearby New York University, a place for residents to relax and walk their dogs, and a public art and theater center. One of the more popular of New York City’s 1700 parks, it is named for the United States’ first president, George Washington. The park is a vibrant meeting place and offers visitors a little bit of everything – from hiking trails to chess tables.

History

Washington Square Park has a varied history. Before it became a public park in 1823, the area was a marshland, part of a Native American village, the site of 18th century public executions, a military parade ground, and a “Potter’s Field” burial ground, where tens of thousands of indigent 18th century yellow fever victims lie.

In the mid-19th century, as living conditions grew more crowded in lower Manhattan, many of the city’s wealthier residents built large Greek revival mansions on the north side of the park. Many of these elegant residences still stand today.

Washington Square Park has been featured in several books and films, including Henry James’ novel, “Washington Square” (set in one of the Greek revival mansions mentioned above) and the film, “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” where the protagonist plays chess right in the park.

Click to book your New York CityPass

Art in Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park features a number of statues and public monuments. Chief among them is Washington Arch, erected in 1889 to commemorate the centennial of President George Washington’s (New York City) inaugural. The original Washington Arch was a temporary, wood and plaster affair. It was replaced in 1892 with the current 77-foot high, marble arch, designed by Stanford White.

The park also sports two statutes of George Washington, one by Alexander Calder (the father of the famous early 20th century artist) and one by Hermon MacNeil, as well a statute of Italian freedom fighter, Giuseppe Garibaldi. The large stone fountain in the center of the park was moved from Fifth Avenue and E 59th St. in the mid-1870’s.

Events

The park hosts a full schedule of concerts, theater presentations, and festivals throughout the year. In addition, Washington Square Park is popular with street musicians, mimes, and artists. Aspiring poets can frequently be found sharing their latest works with park visitors and adjacent New York University holds its commencement ceremonies in the park, weather permitting. Click for a list of upcoming events at Washington Square Park.

The Future of Washington Square Park

In 2005, developers proposed to redesign Washington Square Park. Among the prospective “improvements” were a fence around the perimeter of the park, the relocation of the central fountain and the Garibaldi Statue, and raising the park to be even with the street level. Needless to say, these proposals have been controversial and have met with opposition from NYU students and area residents. One of the chief concerns is that the construction will disturb the “hallowed ground” of the former cemetery. Time will tell whether these developers will be successful, but New Yorkers have a long history of fighting for their favorite spaces.

Visiting Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park is easily accessible from all over Manhattan via the buses and subway line that run down Fifth Avenue. It is also a short walk from Greenwich Village, NYU, and Manhattan’s financial district.

The park is a popular meeting place for residents, NYU students, and tourists alike. There’s a kind of European town square feel to the park. Activities offered there include the permanent chess tables, extensive hiking and bike trails, a long leash-free dog run, bocce courts, lots of benches, and a children’s playground. The park is open from sunrise until 1am daily.

Location: at the foot of New York’s Fifth Avenue, in the heart of Greenwich Village, New York City
Phone: 212-677-6783

Click here to visit Washington Square Park official website.

Note: This information can change without notice. Confirm all details directly with official website.

Governors Island | In the Heart of NY Harbor | NYC’s Backyard

by NYJ Team

Located in the heart of New York Harbor, this massive public park covers 172 acres and can be reached by a quick ferry ride from Lower Manhattan or Brooklyn. Governors Island is open to visitors from May 1st to October 31st and offers a picturesque, pedestrian-only environment with many events and activities including concerts, bike rentals and ample space for picnics and relaxing. It is a great destination in the summertime for those wanting to escape the heat of the city.

An Island for His Majesty’s Governors

When the English captured New Amsterdam and renamed it New York in 1664, they took control of this island. It was then known as Nutten Island because the Native Americans of the region referred to it as as Pagganck, which means “Nut Island,” due to the many chestnut and hickory trees on the land. The island went back and forth between the Dutch and the English for about a decade until Britain finally gained exclusive control for the “benefit and accommodation of His Majesty’s Governors.” It was officially named Governors Island in 1784.

A Military History

Governors Island served as a military base by both the British and American forces for more than two centuries. After the revolution, New York State took control of the island and it was unused for many years until the War of 1812, when troops were stationed there to provide coastal defense. The island continued to be used for military purposes during the American Civil War and throughout the two World Wars. It became a major Coast Guard installation after the U.S. Military forces were consolidated in 1966, with a residential community of about 3,500 people.

Click to book your New York CityPass

A National Monument

Many historic events have taken place on Governors Island including the relighting of the renovated Statue of Liberty by President Reagan in 1986. The island has also hosted many key events including Reagan’s U.S.-U.S.S.R. summit with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1988. Today 22 acres of the island have been declared the Governors Island National Monument, the centerpiece being two 1812-era fortresses.

A Public Space

New York City took over ownership of Governors Island from New York State in 2010. Mayor Bloomberg has transformed a large portion of the island into a public park. A popular place for picnicking and bike-riding, the island offers stunning views of the Statue of Liberty, Jersey City and downtown Manhattan. There are many outdoor and indoor spaces on the island available for public programs and events, and in the summer months the island hosts a busy schedule of concerts, festivals and activities.

Visiting Governors Island

Governors Island is located approximately half-mile south of Manhattan. It can be reached by a quick, free ferry ride from the Battery Maritime Building at 10 South Street (next the Staten Island Ferry) in lower Manhattan or from Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Location: In the heart of New York Harbor, New York City, NY

Click to visit Governors Island official website.

Note: This information can change without notice. Confirm all details directly with official website.

Union Square Park | Historic, Vibrant and… a Foodie Destination

by NYJ Team

This vibrant and historic urban park is the perfect place to people watch in New York City. Located at the intersection of Broadway and 4th Avenue, Union Square Park was the site of the first Labour Day parade in 1882. It also houses the flagship location of the popular Greenmarket Farmers Market, a state-of-the-art children’s playground and a majestic bronze sculpture of George Washington.

Things to Do at Union Square Park

From art vendors to street entertainers to the occasional protest, there are plenty of interesting things to do and see in Union Square Park. Friends can congregate by the James Fountain and kids can play at the 15,000 square-foot playground which features a mini-mountain and rubber-tiled floor to protect little knees from scrapes.

Union Square Park is a popular destination for foodies- it is home to the flagship location of the world-famous Greenmarket Farmers Market. Situated at the north end of the park, the Union Square Greenmarket attracts thousands of visitors all year round eager to shop for fresh, locally grown produce, heritage meats and artisan breads and cheeses.

Union Square Park is also a perfect place to relax and do nothing at all. There are lots of benches to perch and people watch or grassy spots to spread out a blanket and enjoy a picnic lunch.

Click to book your New York CityPass

A Historic Public Space

Union Square Park opened in 1839 and quickly became a bustling town square and one of New York’s most popular public spaces to meet. Centrally located in Manhattan, Union Square was named for its location at the “union” of Bloomingdale and Bowery Roads which is known today as Broadway and 4th Avenue.

Union Square has a history of being a hub of political and social activism and was the site of many workers’ rallies in the 1930’s. It has served as a place for people to gather for political demonstrations, labor protests and community events.

A crowd of 10,000 workers gathered in Union Square for the first Labor Day parade on September 5th, 1882. Labor Day became a national holiday in 1884 and Union Square’s role in American labor history led to its designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1997.

Statues in Union Square Park

Union Square Park is one of the most popular places for New York City locals to meet up at and one of the highlights of the park is its collection of majestic statues. They not only honor important historical figures, but they also are a great way to find someone – “meet me by Abraham Lincoln!” In addition to a statue of America’s 16th president, Union Square Park features sculptures of the Marquis de Lafayette (created by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, the designer of the Statue of Liberty) and Mohandas Gandhi.

Visitors should be sure to seek out the spectacular equestrian statue of the first president of the United States, George Washington. Located at the south end of the park, this bronze work is the oldest sculpture in the New York City Parks collection.

Where Is Union Square Park in New York City?

Union Square Park runs from East 14th Street to East 17th Street between Park Avenue South and Broadway.

For more information on Union Square Park including maps of the area and directions call 212-New-York or visit Union Square Park official website.

Note: This information can change without notice. Confirm all details directly with official website.