At sunset on Thursday, May 21, the Empire State Building, Central Park Arsenal, Washington Square Park Arch, Coney Island’s Parachute Jump, and the Bronx’s Ranaqua Park will “go green” to honor parks workers, who have been part of the city’s essential workforce during the current COVID crisis. #GoingGreenForParkies “is the ultimate acknowledgment and thank you for all their hard work,” which has kept public parks well-maintained “in support of the mental and physical health of all visitors,” according to a press release.
Rendering of architectural lighting: Silman via NYC Parks
After five years of halting progress, NYC Parks officially broke ground last week on a $24 million project that will preserve the Philip Johnson-designed New York State Pavilion Observation Towers in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The current project represents the first major effort to preserve the Pavilion’s structures since their construction for the 1964 World’s Fair.
All photos in this post were taken during the Central Park Moon-In, July 20th, 1969, by Parks Photographer Daniel McPartlin. Courtesy of the NYC Parks Photo Archive.
This Saturday, July 20, will mark 50 years since Neil Armstrong made one giant leap for mankind and set foot on the lunar surface. On Earth, hundreds of millions of people held a collective worldwide breath, then let out an ecstatic whoop of awe and excitement as man met moon. Earthlings around the globe may have wished to be aboard Apollo 11, but New Yorkers knew at least one thing for sure: If they couldn’t go to the moon, they could definitely dress up as the moon, head to Central Park, and witness the out-of-this-world walk from any of three 9’ X 12’ screens, offering coverage from NBC, CBS, and ABC. So began the greatest watch party in New York’s history. Roughly 8,000 New Yorkers, dressed all in white, sprawled across the Sheep Meadow for a blowout celestial-celebration known as The Moon-In.
The Arsenal c. 1914, via Library of Congress
New York City boasts more than 1,700 parks, playgrounds, and recreational facilities covering upwards of 14 percent of the land across all five boroughs. This sprawling network of greenery falls under the jurisdiction of the NYC Parks Department. Once the storied provenance of Robert Moses, the Department functions today under the less-Machiavellian machinations of Mitchell Silver. Though no longer the fiefdom it once was, Parks still operates out of a medieval fortress known as the Arsenal, a commanding bulwark stationed in Central Park at 5th Avenue and 64th Street.
The Arsenal also houses the Arsenal Gallery, the City Parks Foundation, the Historic House Trust, and the New York Wildlife Conservation Society. This wide array of agencies reflects the varied legacy of building itself. Since construction began on the Arsenal 1847 (completed 1851), it has served a stunning array of purposes, from police station to menagerie to weather bureau. The Arsenal has had time to live so many lives: it is one of just two buildings in Central Park that predate the park itself, which was established in 1857.
First Earth Day, April 22, 1970. View of crowds in Union Square, NYC Parks Photo Archive, Neg #53262_28. All of the photos in this post are courtesy of the Parks Department.
Maybe you’ve gathered in Union Square. Perhaps you’ve marched up Fifth Avenue to Central Park. You could have even held signs aloft in Columbus Circle, Tompkins Square, or Zuccotti Park. If you have ever been part of a protest in any park across the five boroughs, you’re in good company. New York City’s parks have a rich history of social protest that stretches back to the American Revolution.
Today, the NYC Parks Department’s Ebony Society will kick off a celebration of that history with “Power to the People,” which will feature archival photographs alongside mixed-media art on the theme of public demonstration. To celebrate the exhibit, we checked out the history behind some of the protests highlighted in the show.