The only time I’ve been to New York City so far was on a Spring Break trip with my parents during my first year of university. In the short span of six days we experienced both snow and a sunny 16°C. Of course we walked through Central Park, but as it wasn’t really warm yet, it didn’t give me that typical park feeling.
You know, the “I want to eat ice cream, lay in the grass, listen to music and do nothing else”-feeling. So when Rosemary O’Brien asked me if I wanted to review her guide on the best pocket parks in NYC, I must say I was a little intrigued. I couldn’t recall any other park besides Central Park.
Were there others? Were they worth visiting and, if so, would this book be able to convince me of that?
Let’s have a look.
Best Pocket Parks of NYC: Making the selection
Over 50 parks. This guide talks about more than 50 parks in over 100 pages. Better put on your walking shoes!
Rosemary O’Brien used the small parks of New York City as places to kill time between auditions when she was working as an actress. These small parks were first called “vest pocket parks” by NYC mayor John Lindsay, who introduced the idea of turning unused pieces of land into parks to “spruce up the city”.
O’Brien didn’t include all pocket parks of NYC though, and so I asked her what criteria she used to come to the 50 parks included in the book.
She told me the Department of Planning of the City of New York has determined the following regulations for the design of public plazas:
Open and inviting at the sidewalk
- Easily seen and read as open to the public
- Conveys openness through low design elements and generous paths leading into the plaza
- Visually interesting and contains seating
- Enhances pedestrian circulation
- Located at the same elevation as the sidewalk
Provides sense of safety and security
- Contains easily accessible paths for ingress and egress
- Oriented and visually connected to the street
Provides places to sit
- Accommodates a variety of well-designed, comfortable seating for small groups and individuals
However, according to O’Brien these regulations aren’t always strictly followed nor enforced and so out of a database containing 530+ NYC parks, she first selected 235 that were built following the guidelines.
Then she narrowed that number further down to what she personally thinks are the best 56 NYC parks, based on their seating options and their ambiance.
Me: Did you set certain criteria for yourself to decide on whether or not to include a certain pocket park in your book, or were your choices mostly based on personal preferences? If you used criteria, what were they?
O’Brien: I wanted to include the parks that were comfortable and aesthetically pleasing to the visitor. Those in my book have seating, are pleasing to the senses in that they have enough foliage or are in an interesting space such as Grand Central Plaza on top of a short building or Lever House which is under a building on street level. I also decided not to be a purist and write about all of the parks with seating just because they had it. I felt if it wasn’t an interesting place to sit, it amounted to just benches on a street.
Me: If you had to choose one, which of the parks in the book is your favorite?
O’Brien: Tudor City Greens is my favorite. It straddles 42nd St.and is an oasis of plantings, trees and is quiet. The developer, Fred F. French achieved his goal of providing an oasis in the middle of the City. It’s benches are parked amidst flowers and trees, and you have to walk up a flight of stairs from 42nd St. to reach it. There is a bridge that crosses 42nd St. so you don’t have to walk back down to street level in order to reach the other park once you’ve climbed the stairs. The park is open to events with permission and brides frequently use it as a place to take their wedding photos.
What I loved
O’Brien provides information on when each park was built, by whom and where you can find it. She also shares some nice to know facts and gives some insider tips on visiting these parks.
All this information is accompanied by photos, which make it easy for the traveler to know they’ve found the right place. The photos also show you how small many of these parks really are. They’re hidden gems of peacefulness in an always hectic city.
If I ever got back to NYC, and I’m sure I will, this guide will go with me. I think it’ll be fun to walk a day around the city, trying to find these pocket parks.
What I liked less
The only thing I missed a bit in this guide, is some extra information on what pocket parks exactly are. O’Brien gives a brief history of how they came into existence, but it would have been nice to have a clear list of criteria that make a pocket park a pocket park (like the one she gave me during the interview).
The guide, or at least the pdf version I got to review (there’s also a Kindle and a paperback version) would have benefited from more professional pictures. The photos aren’t always very clear and they sometimes seem to have been stretched/squeezed together to fit the pages of the book, which is a pity.
I think there’s definitely some aesthetic work to be done on this guide (or at least on the pdf version), but besides that I really liked Best Pocket Parks of NYC. It gives you some nice-to-know information without elaborating too much. You can perfectly take this guide with you on a walk through New York City and quickly look up the parks in the content table when you come across one.
Do you know of any nice pocket parks in NYC? Check out O’Brien’s guide to see if it’s included and if not, you can always contact her on the Best Pocket Parks of NYC website and let her know.
I was given a copy of Best Pocket Parks in NYC to review. I can assure you my reviews always express my honest opinion. Some links in this post are affiliate links. That means that if you buy something through them, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.