New York parks – part 2: Bryant Park


A green city space being used by – people

(all photos by Malcolm)

Bryant Park is a city centre (Manhattan) park that used to be a drug haunt but has been cleaned up and given a complete makeover (back some years ago now).  I’m told by one who knows about these things that it’s often used as a case study on how open spaces can be used to transform an area.  The quote below is from an article in The Guardian in 2000:

Bryant Park, just off Fifth Avenue has been transformed, with the help of $10m of private sector money, from a disused six-acre stretch of land that averaged 10 rapes and 150 robberies a year into a park that hosts fashion shows and open-air cinema and attracts 10,000 visitors daily

Today y0u would never ever guess at the park’s sorry past.  It is a lovely, busy, well-used, vibrant / peaceful space (yes both – find in it what you will), with a range of free activities that would make the average community centre green with envy.

We happened upon it by chance as we explored Manhattan.  I’d picked it out on the map as somewhere we could sit and recover from our long morning walk and maybe find a coffee. I wasn’t wrong.


But coffee and a peaceful sit wasn’t all we found there that middle of the day.

There was music.


Weekday lunchtime professional pianists scheduled all through the summer. This man was very very good.

There were games.


Speed chess, then back to work


Many tables like this. Lots of concentration.


Soon after this, the man in the suit and tie walked briskly off. Back to work? (my photo)

There were other games.  Free to borrow, suitable for adults and children of any and all ages.


(my photo)

There were books.


Several book carts, free to borrow and read there. Books for adults and children, newspapers, magazines. All free. Echoing an earlier scheme on that spot in the 1930s Depression. (my photo)

And then, on our way off to somewhere else, we found that there was knitting.  Oh joy!


Weekly afternoon knitting gathering, sponsored by a local yarn store.

These people gather every Wednesday afternoon through the summer.  They come from all across NYC.  The yarn is supplied by the sponsoring yarn store.  They knit beautiful scarves for a homeless charity, which distributes them for the winter.  Those who are experienced knitters help and teach beginners and improvers.  Win-win.



Of course I stopped and joined them. I sat and knitted, we talked. The language of knitting seemed pretty universal.

We returned to Bryant Park several times during our stay.  Of course.


About deborah @ the magic jug

Now I've passed 60 I'm still doing all sorts of things I haven't done before, as well as carrying on with the things I already love. I live a happy life with my long term love Malcolm. In my blog I explore local and low tech ideas, food, growing, making, reading, thinking, walking, and lots of other words ending in 'ing'.
This entry was posted in Community, Craft, Frugal, Gap year, Inspirations, Local, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Travels, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to New York parks – part 2: Bryant Park

  1. what a great park! So many ideas here -love the books, games and knitting. I wonder if Bath could ever take any of these ideas on?!


    • At the moment BANES are redoing part of Holborne Gardens, and I hear that what was the bowls green is going to be remade into a space for outdoor ctivities such as yoga. I really hope so, though I fear that like most other activities in our parks, it may be a commercial venture rather than a free one.

      The key to all the things that happen in Bryant Park seems to be that it is in a busy (and I guess largely wealthy) district, and they formed a managing company on which local businesses are represented and contribute financially – it’s in their interests for the park to be an attractive, happening place because it contributes to their ability to attract and retain staff, or attracts customers to the area. Judging by how busy the park seemed to be all the time we were there, they do seem to be right about that.

      But one of the nice things was that there was no pressure or expectation to spend anything anywhere, and there was a real mix of people using the space.

      I think the key to moving things on in our own areas is to take some of these ideas and get involved in the local ‘friends of’ organisations that seem to be springing up. Where I live it seems to be one of those intriguing moments when something bad (government cuts) leads to something good (new opportunities for local people to have a say in how their local green spaces are and work).

      Liked by 1 person

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