In a city that is waging a constant assault on your wallet, your waistline and your personal space bubble, the sweet relief of green space can be crucial. I tried to spend as much time as possible in New York City’s parks and of all of the ones I visited, Washington Square Park was my favourite.
We stopped in Washington Square Park between exploring SoHo and the West Village. On hot summer’s day, the park was teeming with families, joggers, tourists, NYU students and chess players hunched thoughtfully over their boards. We sat on a spare bench and took it all in – or at least, we tried to.
After a few minutes, we noticed faint piano music coming from deeper inside the park. It was the Amelie theme tune. We followed the music, until we found a man was playing on a grand piano in the middle of one of the park’s major arteries. At least a hundred people sat and listened, and we joined them. I wondered what this guy did during the week, whether he was a full time musician with a Saturday side hustle, or whether he was a talented hobbyist, escaping the routine of his 9-5.
We listened for a while, and donated a few dollars before heading further into the park.
Washington Square Park has undergone dramatic transformation over some two centuries, as New York City grew up around it. It started as a marsh, then a potter’s field, then a cemetery and then a parade ground, and finally, became a park that would host a spectrum of community activity, from parades and performances to protests and mourning marches.
Author Henry James described wrote fondly of Washington Square Park, “… this part of New York appears to many persons the most delectable. It has the kind of established repose which is not of frequent occurrence in other quarters of the long shrill city.” I have to agree. It is so recognisable as New York, yet in my two months there, I didn’t find anywhere else quite like it.
Have you been to New York City? Where’s your favourite place in the city?