While visiting the major, most popular attractions of New York City can be fun, it can also be stressful, overwhelming and full of selfie-taking tourists. However, the great thing about the Big Apple is that plenty of other attractions exist that are far less known or even hidden in plain sight. To go beyond the tourist-filled sites and tour the city like you’re seeing it for the very first time, check out 6sqft’s list ahead of the 20 best underground, secret spots in New York City.
John Rink’s rejected design proposal for Central Park, via NY Historical Society
Central Park, which celebrated its 164th anniversary this month, required elaborate planning to make it what it is today: the most visited urban park in the country. New York City launched a design competition in 1857 for the development of the open space between Manhattan’s 59th and 110th Streets. Most New Yorkers know that out of 33 total entrants, the city chose Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s “Greensward Plan.” However, just five of the losing designs survived and can be seen at the New York Historical Society. One particularly unique design was submitted by park engineer John Rink, who planned Central Park to be highly decorated with whimsically shaped sections dominated by topiaries (h/t Slate).
Central Park’s Belvedere Castle will undergo major renovations beginning this summer and early fall, to fix the 146-year-old structure’s cracked pavement, leaking roof and plumbing issues. While the plan to give the castle a face-lift was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission last month, the plan to make its path handicap-accessible has not yet been approved. According to the New York Times, preservationists are concerned about the Central Park Conservancy’s proposal to build a ramp-like elevated walkway to the castle’s entrance, saying it would alter the experience of Central Park.
© Miesha Agrippa for 6sqft
We can think of worse fates than getting lost in Central Park. With its winding pathways, lovely bridges, stunning gardens and a magical lake, it’s the most visited urban park in the United States. But a few of those visitors are bound to take a wrong turn every now and again, and if you find yourself in that predicament, Central Park’s 1,600 lampposts bear a secret code that will help you get your bearings and find your way.
While the outside of the Belvedere Castle looks strong, the inside of the 146-year-old fortress is actually crumbling. The cracked pavement, leaking roof, and plumbing issues encouraged the Central Park Conservancy to start a 10-year $300 million campaign last summer to renovate its structures, as well as surrounding playgrounds. As DNAInfo reported, beginning at the end of this summer and early fall, the castle, the Bernard Family Playground, and the Billy Johnson Playground will be closed for reconstruction.
If you’ve walked through Central Park on a recent weekend, you’ve likely noticed lush grass, blooming flowers, and hordes of tourists and locals alike enjoying the city’s unofficial backyard. But a closer look reveals “the debilitating effects of time and modern use,” according to the Times, which is why the Central Park Conservancy is embarking a 10-year, $300 million campaign to fund repairs and restorations in the 843-acre open space.
“Forever Green: Ensuring the Future of Central Park” will address issues such as a leaking roof at the 144-year-old Belvedere Castle, plumbing issues and cracked pavement at the Conservatory Garden, and insufficient infrastructure at the Naumburg Bandshell. It will also restore arches, bridges, gazebos, and waterways to Olmsted and Vaux’s original Adirondack- and Catskills-inspired vision.
After being closed off to the public since the 1930s, The Hallet Nature Sanctuary on the lower east side of Central Park is once again open to all, writes The Times. The lush four-acre peninsula has for the last decades been used as a bird sanctuary, reclaimed and then tended to by the Central Park Conservancy in 2001 as part of their Woodlands Initiative. Under the project, $45 million was directed towards revitalizing and restoring the wooded areas of Central Park to their original glory.
Evolo has announced the winners of its 2016 Skyscraper Competition, and, somewhat ironically, the number-one spot goes to a proposal that doesn’t build up at all, but rather digs down.
New York Horizon was imagined by Yitan Sun and Jianshi Wu as a means to “reverse the traditional relationship between landscape and architecture, in a way that every occupiable space has direct connection to the nature.” The idea is to dig down, exposing the bedrock beneath Central Park and thereby freeing up space to build a horizontal skyscraper around its entire perimeter. The resulting structure would rise 1,000 feet and create seven square miles of interior space, 80 times that of the Empire State Building.
In 1980, the Central Park Conservancy was formed as a nonprofit organization to manage the park under a contract with the City of New York and the Parks Department. As 6sqft noted in a previous interview with the Conservancy, they’re made up of “gardeners, arborists, horticulturists, landscape architects, designers, tour guides, archeologists, a communications team, and even a historian,” all of whom help to maintain the park as the gorgeous urban oasis we know and love today.
But before this, the park faced countless political and economic stressors, and without a central body to oversee it, entered a state of disrepair and neglect. It culminated in the ’80s (as the Conservancy worked on a plan for its rehabilitation) with barren patches of land, graffiti tags, and dead plants. Since it’s hard to imagine Central Park in such a state, the Conservancy has provided these incredible before-and-after photos that show just how far the beloved space has come.
At first glance, it looks like an ordinary 19th century street clock, but when you notice its movement, things get a little weird. Located at Central Park’s Doris C. Freedman Plaza, the clock’s face rotates backwards, while the second hand appears to remain upright and stationary at all times (h/t Laughing Squid). What’ll really throw you for a loop is that the clock is displaying the correct time, but because of how accustomed we are to the regular rotation, it’s almost impossible to read.
Titled “Against the Run,” the clock was created by Alicja Kwade for the Public Art Fund. The Polish-born, Berlin-based artist wanted to challenge “the systems we invent to make sense of our lives,” thereby forcing us to “see ‘reality’ from a new perspective.”