Parks of Lower Manhattan

At Upper New York Harbor, the island’s southern tip, Lower Manhattan is where it all began, and it still vibrates. By day, this is a worldwide hub of financial commerce, insurance, stock exchanges, and all the related industry; however, by night, a few Manhattanites (wisely) refer to one of the five neighborhoods, either Financial District, Tribeca, Civic Center, Chinatown, the East River Waterfront or Battery Park City, as home.

With Tribeca’s coming-of-age a unique smart-shopping-and-dining district was established too. Countercommonsensical is that (with the exception of Tribeca) some of the most sensible real-estate purchases can still be had here.

Nearby Lower Manhattan Neighborhood’s Zip Codes:

Chinatown 13, 2

Civic Center and New York City Hall Park 7

East River Waterfront to South Street Seaport 38

Financial District 38, 7

Battery Park City 6

Tribeca 13, 7

BATTERY PARK

Battery Place, at State and Whitehall Streets

For more than 200 years, Battery Park has been an invaluable part of New York City’s history. In 1855, Castle Garden, situated inside the Park, became the world’s first immigrant depot. Decades before Ellis Island was built or the Statue of Liberty gazed down at incoming boats, millions of newcomers arrived at Battery Park from Europe and elsewhere.

Although its role has changed, people from around the world still visit Battery Park for a view of the city’s past. Ferries dock at its shore to pick up visitors to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and all summer long concerts play on its grounds.

Beautiful waterfront and flower gardens make Battery Park a lovely place to wander. For those who’d like a longer stroll, the park’s location at the southern tip of Manhattan makes it a classic starting point for walking tours through the city.

Located at the southern tip of Manhattan with ready access to the harbor and the Hudson River, Battery Park is where the history of New York City began. The area’s strategic location was recognized by Native Americans and Dutch settlers, who called it Capske Hook (from Kapsee, an Indian term for rocky ledge). Near this point, the colonists of the Dutch West India Company began the settlement of New Amsterdam in 1625. As the colony grew and its commerce expanded, piers, wharves, and slips rose along the coastline. The Dutch constructed Fort Amsterdam as early as 1626, and around 1683, the first of a series of gun batteries was constructed around the shore.

With its fine promenade and magnificent vista of the harbor, the Battery became a popular place for New Yorkers to visit in the early 18th century. Its development as a public park owes to its enlargement through landfill. Fort George (as Fort Amsterdam was then known) was completely razed in 1788, and its remnants were used to fill in the shore and expand the Battery. Between 1808 and 1811, a new circular fort known as the West Battery was erected 200 feet offshore. It was renamed Castle Clinton (for Governor De Witt Clinton) in 1815 and ceded to the City in 1823. Around this time, the park was extended further by landfills to an area of about ten acres. Another massive landfill project got underway in 1853 and was completed in 1872.

Meanwhile, the old fort was renamed Castle Garden and provided the setting for countless receptions, demonstrations, and performances for more than thirty years. General Lafayette was welcomed there in 1824 and Hungarian patriot Lajos Kossuth in 1851. Inventor Samuel F.B. Morse demonstrated his “wireless telegraph” in 1842, and singer Jenny Lind made her American debut in 1850. From 1855 to 1890, the building was used as the federal immigration center for the east coast, processing approximately eight million immigrants. In 1890 Castle Clinton was acquired by the New York City Department of Public Parks, which operated the New York Aquarium there from 1896 to 1941.

Portions of Battery Park were closed from 1940 to 1952 while the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and the Battery Park Underpass were built beneath it. Although construction was delayed by World War II, New Yorkers were delighted with the dramatically transformed park, completely re-landscaped and expanded by two acres. Subsequent alterations include the addition of Peter Minuit Plaza in 1955 and the dedication of the East Coast Memorial in 1963. Castle Clinton was ceded to the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1950 and designated a national monument. In 1982, New York State designated Battery Park as a part of Harbor Park, a group of historic waterfront sites.

Battery Park contains many monuments honoring soldiers, explorers, inventors, and immigrants. In 1995, this American Linden (Tilia Americana) tree was planted as a tribute to singer Jenny Lind (1820-1887), whose performance at Castle Garden on September 11, 1850 was billed as the musical event of the century. Thanks to promoter P.T. Barnum, the arrival of the “Swedish Nightingale” caused a sensation in New York. Thousands of fans purchased Jenny Lind cakes, hats, boots, opera glasses, parasols, and concert tickets. At the concert, Lind earned $12,600, all of which she donated to charitable and benevolent institutions in New York City. She concluded her American tour with a farewell performance at Castle Garden on May 24, 1852.

American Merchant Mariners Memorial

Commissioned by the American Merchant Mariners Memorial, Inc., this memorial was conceived in 1976.

Coast Guard Memorial

The Coast Guard Memorial near the southern entrance path on the south side of Battery Park is by Norman Millet Thomas (born 1915). The sculpture was created in 1947 and dedicated in 1955.

East Coast Memorial

Facing the Statue of Liberty across New York harbor, the East Coast Memorial is located at the southern end of Battery Park.

Giovanni Da Verrazzano Statue

This heroic sculpture of Italian explorer and navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano (c. 1485-1528) is by Ettore Ximenes (18551926) and was dedicated October 9, 1909.

Jewish Tercentenary Monument

This flagstaff, unveiled on May 20, 1955, commemorates the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the first Jewish settlers in New Amsterdam and North America.

Joh Ambrose Statue

This monument honors engineer John Wolfe Ambrose (18381899), whose vision and persistence resulted in the deep sea channel to New York harbor, which improved the viability of the port of New York City.

John Ericsson Statue

This 1903 statue by Jonathan Scott Hartley (18451912) depicts the esteemed Swedish-American engineer and inventor John Ericsson (18031889), who helped to revolutionize military-maritime technology.

Netherlands Monument

This monumental flagstaff commemorates the Dutch establishment of New Amsterdam and the seventeenth-century European settlement which launched the modern metropolis of New York City.

New York Korean War Veterans Memorial

This monument in Battery Park, north of Castle Clinton, honors military personnel who served in the Korean Conflict (1950-1953).

Norwegian Veterans Monument

This monument honors the valiant sailors of the Norwegian merchant marines and navy who lost their lives in the cause of the Allies during World War II.

Shellfish in New York City

Battery Park rests on the southern tip of Manhattan, overlooking New York Harbor. At one time, the waters of this area were filled with boats attempting to harvest shellfish.

The Immigrants

Sculptor Luis Sanguino (b. 1934) celebrates the diversity of New York City and the struggle of immigrants in this heroicsized bronze figural group.

Walloon Setters Monument

This nearly ten-foot-tall granite stele at the northwest corner of Battery Park by Castle Clinton was designed by noted architect Henry Bacon (1866-1924).

Wireless Operators Monument

Italian physicist and inventor Guglielmo Marchese Marconi (1874-1937) carried out the first successful experiments of wireless technology in 1895 in Bologna.

City Hall Park

Broadway, at Park Row and Chambers Street

Surrounded by centuries-old majestic government buildings that date back to 1812, this park provides a much-needed green spot in a bustling downtown area. At lunchtime each afternoon, it springs to life when those working in the neighborhood come to relax, eat, and soak in sunshine on its grassy lawns.

For people-watching enthusiasts, the park provides a crosscut of New York life as government workers, jury members, and newlyweds visiting City Hall for their marriage licenses stroll through its grounds.

A bike path, which leads directly to the Brooklyn Bridge, offers a different type of scenic view to cyclists pedaling through picturesque panoramas of some of the City’s iconic public architecture.

City Hall Park, located in downtown Manhattan, has played a key role in New York civic life for centuries, from its Colonial beginnings as a rebel outpost to its current function as the seat of City government. The land has been used, among other things, as a pasture, a prison, a parade ground, a public execution site, an almshouse, an art museum, and a post office.

From 1653 to 1699 this area was known as the Commons and served as a communal pasture ground for livestock. The park’s western boundary was a Native American trail that later became Broadway. An almshouse for the City’s poor stood on this site from 1736 to 1797, at which point a second almshouse was built; archaeological evidence of the first structure was unearthed in 1989.

In 1757, construction began on a debtors’ prison and a soldiers’ barracks on the north end of the Commons where the Tweed Courthouse now stands. In 1765 New Yorkers protested the Stamp Act at the site, and a year later the first

“Liberty Pole,” a commemorative mast topped by a vane featuring the word “liberty,” was built by pro-independence New Yorkers; a replica dating to 1921 now stands between City Hall and Broadway, near its original location. During the American Revolution (1776-1783) the British controlled New York and used the debtor’s prison to hold Revolutionary prisoners of war, executing 250 of them on gallows located behind the Soldiers’ Barracks.

In 1803, the cornerstone was laid for the current City Hall, which was designed by Joseph Mangin and John Mc Comb. When the building opened in 1812 many felt that it was too far north of the center of the City. In 1818, a circular building called the Rotunda that housed the City’s first art museum was built on the park’s northeast corner, and in 1830 the debtors’ prison was converted to the City Hall of Records. In 1842, a fountain with a 100-foot-diameter basin and an impressive center jet capable of shooting water 50 feet into the air was built using water pumped in from the then-new Croton Aqueduct. New Yorkers continued to use the park for gatherings and events throughout the 19th century, including public meetings after the declaration of the Mexican-American War, in 1846, and a call to volunteers in 1862 to enlist in the Civil War (1861-1865). During the Civil War the park was used to house troops in soldiers’ barracks. After President Lincoln was assassinated, his funeral procession for New York residents originated at City Hall.

Part of the southern tip of the park was sold to the Federal government in 1867 to build a post office. The Rotunda building was demolished in 1870 and in 1871 the Croton Fountain was replaced by a new fountain designed by Jacob Wrey Mould, co-designer of Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain, which became the centerpiece of the smaller park. Concerts were held at the park during the 1870s. In 1903, the park’s original gas streetlights were replaced by electric lamps. In 1939 the Post Office building was torn down, restoring the park to its original triangular shape, and reestablishing the open view of St. Paul’s Chapel from City Hall. In 1966, the City Hall building was designated a city landmark as well as a national landmark.

The park is home to more than a dozen monuments, including Frederick MacMonnies’s statue of Colonial patriot Nathan Hale (1893) and John Quincy Adams Ward’s Horace Greeley (1890), which was moved to the park in 1916. In 1920, the Mould fountain was dissembled and moved to Crotona Park in the Bronx to make way for MacMonnies’ controversial Civic Virtue (1922) fountain, which stood in the park from 1922 to 1941. Civic Virtue featured an allegorical figural group depicting a male figure stepping over two prone female figures, and as the object of many protests was moved to Queens at Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia’s (1882-1947) request. The Delacorte Fountain (1972) stood at the site from 1972 until the park was renovated in 1999; it is now in the Bronx at Borough Hall Park. In 1991, during the construction of a nearby federal office building, an African burial ground was uncovered on portions of the northern part of the park, and designated as a City landmark and National Historic site in 1993.

In 1999 a $34.6 million project fully restored the park, adding a central walkway and gardens and replacing pavement with grass and trees. The Mould fountain with its original granite base was returned to the park with a reconstructed centerpiece and lighting fixtures. A circular tablet at the southern end of the park was added to educate visitors about the history of the site. At the park’s rededication, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani called the renovation “a final gift from the 20th century to New Yorkers of the 21st.”

Broadway at Franklin Street, a recent light-manufacturing-toresidential-usage conversion, designed by W. Wheeler Smith, and completed in 1881. This imposing classic, Italianate-style edifice, with a cast-iron façade, sits at the cusp of three northern, Lower Manhattan residential reserves: Tribeca, Greater Chinatown, and the Civic Center

Columbus Park

This concrete park was named in 1911 after Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), the Italian explorer credited with discovering America, or at least with awakening Europe to the opportunities there. Bounded by Baxter (formerly Orange), Worth (formerly Anthony), Bayard, and Mulberry Streets, the site has alternatively been named Mulberry Bend Park, Five Points Park, and Paradise Park. Columbus Park is situated in the heart of one of the oldest residential areas in Manhattan, adjacent to the infamous “Five Points” and “The Bend”.

Until 1808, the site for the park was a swampy area near the Collect Pond (now Foley Square) and hosted a set of tanneries. In 1808, the pond was filled and became Pearl Street. When the filling began to sink, a foul odor emerged which depressed the living conditions of that neighborhood. As a consequence, the area became host to one of the world’s most notorious tenements, known for its wretched living conditions and rampant crime, earning such names as “murderer’s alley” and “den of thieves.”

In 1842, on a visit to the United States, English author Charles Dickens made sure to visit the notorious Five Points, and he wrote about it in his American Notes in the most scathing terms. He described it as “reeking everywhere with dirt and filth,” concluding that “all that is loathsome, drooping and decayed is here.” But it was in the 1890’s, when plans for the construction of a park were already underway, that the area’s notoriety achieved new heights. Danish newspaperman Jacob Riis devoted an entire chapter of his epic How the Other Half Lives to “The Bend,” detailing the

“foul core of New York’s slums.” He likened the filth and dearth of sunlight to a “vast human pig-sty,” claiming that “There is but one ‘Bend’ in the world, and that is enough.”

Despite its dangerous and difficult conditions, Five Points mixed the residential, commercial, and industrial elements in an unprecedented fashion, bringing together a wide array of immigrants. In the 1840’s, Baxter Street became host to German Jews and New York’s first garment district. Meanwhile, the neighborhood quickly grew to become the largest Irish community outside of Dublin itself. In the 1880s, the Italians began to arrive, populating an adjacent neighborhood that remains to this day.

Immigrants used Five Points as a stepping stone to a better life in a new land and, nowadays, one can view the area not as a wretched slum but as a microcosm of the young city’s burgeoning and complex demographic. As Walt Whitman wrote in 1842, (the same year that Charles Dickens wrote his American Notes), the inner-city residents are “not paupers and criminals, but the Republic’s most needed asset, the wealth of stout poor men who will work.”

In the 20th century, the area around Five Points was subsumed by a sprawling Chinatown, with the latest generation of immigrants beginning to create a new life afresh in Manhattan’s historic downtown. The residents of the area around Five Points have always served as a paragon of hard work and the drive to succeed.

Mulberry Bend Park was planned in the 1880’s by Calvert Vaux, co-designer of Central Park. Vaux saw this park as an opportunity to bring new life and order into the depressed neighborhood. Riis remarked of Vaux’s newly designed park that it is “little less than a revolution” to see the slum housing replaced by trees and grass and flowers, and its dark hovels infused with light and the sunshine and air. The park opened in the summer of 1897, with bench-lined curved walkways and an expansive, open grassy area.

Columbus Park is one of the city’s first major urban parks, and was home to such events as “Inter-park Playground Basket Ball,” then played by youth segregated by weight class, as described by the Park Commission in 1913. Throughout its life, the dynamic park has undergone many changes and much reconstruction. In 1934, a limestone recreation center was erected, which is now a comfort station. In the 1980s, the construction of new playground equipment and the addition of basketball courts were completed. In 1999, two new pieces of play equipment were installed, as well as new paving and safety surfacing. A medley of planting has been done regularly throughout the life of the park. The area continues to be a gathering place for people of different cultures and ages, and hosts a wide variety of events and assemblies.

Within the Tribeca Historic District, this Dutch-colonial-style, single-family dwelling, below, was the corner home among a row of houses on White Street between West Broadway and Church Street.

Pocket Parks

Collect Pond Park is Located on Leonard Street between Centre and Lafayette Streets, this site is above the eighteenth-century Collect Pond. The pond was a sixty-foot deep pool fed by an underground spring. The waters derived their name from seventeenth-century Dutch settlers, who called it “kolch” meaning “small body of water”. Following the English capture of New Amsterdam (1664), the name was further corrupted to “collect.” Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Collect Pond was a favorite spot for picnics and ice-skating. By the early nineteenth century, however, New York City commerce had transformed the sparkling waters into a communal open sewer.

On April 28, 1960, the Board of Estimate placed the property under Parks jurisdiction. The property was formerly known as Civil Court Park due to the plethora of judiciary institutions throughout the neighborhood; the Criminal Court, Civil Court, and Family Court are all visible from this parkland. The park boasts a large, green open area circumscribed by benches and trees. Commissioner Stern changed the property’s name from Civil Court Park to Collect Pond Park, thereby providing the area with a well-deserved sense of character and history.

Tribeca Park triangular and at the junction of Spring, Wooster, Duane Street, and Greenwich Streets. In 1735 Anthony Rutgers, the owner of an adjacent farm arranged to acquire much of this land in return for draining the swampy ground. Twenty years later, all of Rutgers’s property was held by Elsie (nee Rutgers) and Leonard Lispenard. The area became known as Lispenard Meadows.

Duane Park, located at Hudson and Duane Streets, was the first public space acquired by the city specifically for public use. It is adjacent to the namesake street of James Duane (1733-1797), New York’s first mayor after the Revolutionary War. The park was a corner of the Annetje Jans farm, granted in 1636 to Roelfoff and Annetje Jans. After Roeloff Jans death, his widow married the Revered Everardus Bogardus, second minister of the Dutch Church of New Amsterdam, and the farm became known as the Dominie’s Bouwery, (minister’s farm).

Zuccotti Park is a half-acre plaza now synonymous with the Occupy Wall Street movement. It was established in a development frenzy in the early 1960s. Changes to the city’s zoning laws gave real estate developers concessions in exchange for public spaces, both indoors and out, which today providing 3.5 million square feet of space.

Teardrop Park within Battery Park City is encased by Warren Street and Murray Street, River Terrace and North End Avenue. The two-acre children’s playground enjoys the drama of the Hudson River, and an “Ice Wall,” artwork by Ann Hamilton and Michael Mercil, a children’s slide, sandboxes, water play, a rocky reading area, places to “rock hop,” naturalistic plantings.

Albert Capsouto Park is bounded by Canal Street Varick and Laight Streets. Although small, the grassy strip features a waterfall and a series of lower falls along a narrow, shallow waterway.

Hanover Square and the land in and around this park was part of a public street and fronted directly on the East River. As the headquarters of the Dutch West Company, the square has been used as a public commons continuously, since 1637. The first paved lane, Brewer’s, and now Stone Street, led from the harbor to beyond Broad Street, and alongside Pearl Street. By 1730, this area was known as Hanover Square in tribute to George I of the House of Hanover. The Bank of New York, founded by Alexander Hamilton, moved its headquarters to the square in 1787. Below, the pocket park is now home to the British Garden honoring those English citizens who died on 911.