St. Nicholas Park
In NYC, the concrete jungle, many assume that you need to be clever to find the small bits of greenery hidden in a wealth of shop fronts and ever growing apartment buildings. As the granddaughter of a man who never spent a day without encouraging blossoms on orchids and roses in his greenhouse, I naturally adopted his love for all things green and growing and sought out all things of that nature the moment that I planted myself in NYC.
After much exploration, St. Nicholas Park has become my park. When you enter the park, the walls of trees and plants seem to grow into the clouds and create the illusion that you are no longer surrounded by a man-made city. This lovely park, located at the intersection of St. Nicholas Avenue, 127th Street, St. Nicholas Terrace and 141st Street, bordering the Manhattan neighborhoods of Hamilton Heights, Manhattanville, and Harlem, was originally designated as a public park by NY State in 1894. Since then it has been a fixture in the surrounding neighborhoods, has expanded into adjacent lands including the “The Point of Rocks,” where General George Washington positioned himself during the Battle of Harlem Heights in 1776. More recently, the community surrounding the park initiated “Take Back St. Nicholas Park” to make the area more clean and safe while adding spectacular features such as “new play equipment, color seal-coated basketball courts, improved safety surfacing, a frog spray shower, a drinking fountain, World’s Fair benches, and a community bulletin board. The handball courts were also renovated. New pavement and curbs, a steel picket fence with lockable gates, and improved water supply and drainage systems improved the overall appearance of the park” according to the City of New York.
Perhaps one of my favorite features of this park is the amphitheater. I am an avid reader, performer, and babysitter and to me this performance space amongst the trees gives the imagination plenty of room to run wild. I have sat in the space reading books where I found myself spontaneously reading aloud to a group of kids wondering what book could possibly be so interesting to me. The Metropolitan Opera do their Summer Recital Series with incredible singers in this park and just recently performed selections of stunning music for free to anyone who wanted to stop and listen. But perhaps my favorite moment in the park was when babysitting a group of my most energetic kids, I was asked to sit in the audience while they performed an impromptu ‘Peter Pan’ complete with adorable made-up songs and briefest appearance of Tinker Bell as the youngest ran from my lap into the center of the stage to twirl about and sing ‘I’m a Little Teapot.’
This park is an incredible space to barbecue or just be for hours at a time. It encourages play and creativity and surrounds New Yorkers with much needed fresh air and flowers. Oh…and did I mention there is an exceptional public pool? No? Just another fabulous feature to add to the already overflowing wealth of opportunities to be had in this lovely park filled with nature, art, and ever abundant imagination.
St. Nicolas Park:
St. Nicholas Ave., St. Nicholas Ter. between W. 128 St. and W. 141 St.