Growing up in NYC, there is rarely places or moments of calm, relaxation or solitude. Everywhere you go or turn, there is some sort of chaotic movement surrounding you. Even in seemingly quiet areas, you’re sure to find some sort of action happening. However, there are hidden gems all around the city, where one could kick back and relax, feeling removed from their surrounds. It’s all about exploring.
Located on E 53rd St between Madison and 5th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan on the former site of a Club, Paley Park is known as a pocket park. Paley offers a quiet urban oasis in the midst of the bustling city by the careful use of falling water, airy trees, lightweight furniture and simple spatial organization. Key to its success is a waterfall spanning the entire back of the park. The waterfall creates a backdrop of grey noise to mask the sounds of the city. The park is surrounded by walls on three sides and is open to the street on the fourth side, as the entrance. The walls are covered in ivy, and the overhead canopy formed by trees, which in fact are planted on a grid within the central seating area, adds a degree of serenity to the park. However, currently the building adjacent to the park is undergoing construction, leaving half of the small park enclosed under a scaffolding (image) taking away from its beauty.
On my trip to Paley, I decided not to go alone. So I brought along my best friend (Gabby) and girlfriend (Madi) mainly because I knew they love the scenery. And boy was I right “I love this.. The water is so powerful” said Gabby. The lighted waterfall is a visual treat at sunset, and its ability to drowns out the city noise is something special. It’s truly hard to find an area in NY to escape the sound of traffic. The slow, constant whooshing noises that echo from the falling water presents itself as non-threatening and soothing, which is why this area if hot stop for leisurely relaxation time amidst the Midtown lunch crowd and daily traffic right of 5th ave and Madison. Even though my girlfriend did enough the view and feeling of being able to feel at on with her surroundings, being that she’s from VA, there’s no small or “fake ass waterfall.” that can come close to the breathe taking views she felt back at home. Yet, it is a place she would defineitly vent back to and use as a safe haven to “drown of [her] sorrows.” Who wouldn’t want to enjoy the serene, comfy, shaded area, with several food and vendors within walking distance. Not to mention, Paley itself, has its own hotdog and beverage are within the park to buy from.
Being that we venture to Paley late in the day, it wasn’t many people there. In fact, during the 20-25 min duration we sat there collecting and documenting our surroundings, no more than 18 people stepped foot in the park. So there wasn’t much to hear, plus the waterfall didn’t make the conversations that did occur easy to hear. However, one thing that I could hear multiple times was “I wanna take a picture.” or something along the lines. Even 2 young child (video ) had ran up the stairs located at the entrance and went directly to the waterfall, where there mother told them “don’t move and smile.” Everyone who entered the park, didn’t say long. They were in and out, sat down for a few minutes to relax, ate their meal, captured some pictures and videos, but no one stayed the whole time we were there, except one couple, who was there both before and after we had left. (Image )
Sounds: The whole Showtime opening, The sound from the crosswalk box as the seconds counts down, Ambulance and police sirens that go on for blocks, different conversations
Honking horns and emergency personal sirens that seems to last forever, seemingly endless array of people in cartoon character costumes just trying to make a living, young artist promoting their music and art, camera slow toting tourists, showtime dances and athletes and you can’t forget about the half-naked ladies and men posing for photo oops on the pedestrian plazas; these are just a few part of the fabric that makes up the crossroads of the world. And thanks to its central Manhattan location and status as a major transit hub, millions of people a day pass through it, whether they really want to or not. Not to mention, it’s one of the world’s most Instagrammed locations, even though many Native New Yorker’s, like myself, consider Times Square one of the most overrated and nightmare places in the city. There are really almost no rules out there, plus with so many people, it’s fairly easy to get away with things. For instance, more and more people are running scams, not everyone other their is performing or promoting for an actually go cause. Moreover, the popular mascots characters could be seen mugging people all the time. Alongside, comedy and bus ticket people being very aggressive. As a native NY’er and someone who has worked in the heart of the city for half a year, especially during the spring/summer seasons, I’ve bared witness to many verbal and physical fights, some to the point where the police had to get involved. In 2016, new zones were designated in Times Square overnight in an effort to regulate costumed characters and other street performers. The areas colored green on the map are called “chill zones” where pedestrians can relax without concern about being approached by any performers, artist and/or scammers. This new designated area also includes “designated activity zones” which can be identified by blue paint. This is where people can perform, pose for pictures, solicit money. And finally, there is the purple “express lanes” for people to walk through freely without any hassle. Even with the city laying down new rules, The chaos is still not relegated to just one street corner or block. It’s literally everywhere, from 42nd Street all the way up to 48th.
Unlike my visit to Paley, I went explored Time Square on my own. For several reasons, I was in class, my friends were busy, I had work right after class and most importantly, I rather move through the chaos of the city on my own. It’s hard maneuvering as one, trying to keep up with several other people in even more of a difficult task. There are just so many people, every single where you turn. Even less crowded spots are still crowded. Even with it being Valentines day, Times Square still played host to hundreds of people. “Once again, happy Valentine’s Day New York City, we’re in the center of the world celebrating love.” Ranged from one of the specially geared valentine’s day booths. (video )They could also be head saying “We had to do ir one time for New York.” right before playing Empire State of Mind by Jay-z & Alicia Keys, then a few mins later “It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t play some Biggie.” To me, being a Native New Yorker, this was such a beautiful thing to bear witness too. These are two of the greatest rap artist and entrepreneurs to come of of New York and the birth place of Rap itself.
One thing I found quite annoying was the idea of being able to get on the red steps. Usually accessible to all, I guess in order to regulate the traffic expected for the holidays alongside make extra profit of tourist, the city decided to limit access to only those who brought a valentines light up ring. You could hear the security guard say “You have a ring?” constantly as he turned multiple people away from the entrance and barriers. However, this didn’t stop people from finding other areas to rest their legs. Overall through Times Square, you can count a total of well over 10 different seating areas/styles to indulge it, certain ones way more than others. But it figures, with such a huge amount of human traffic daily, there nears to be a huge array of seating available to the public. (image)
Unlike Paley, Time Square isn’t really connected to nature. There are a few potted flowers here and there, but no trees visible for blocks. However, with no trees in the surrounding area, the leaves tons of room for sunlight to cover the several block radius, especially when the suns reaches it’s peak. (image )Even when the sun is focused on one side, there buildings surround the area reflects the sunlight from every angle possible. And even when the sun is down, in the city that never sleeps, the over simulating lights never cease to shut off. So no matter what time of day it was, the is always some source of light around. (image )
Sounds: Waterfall, Cars honking, Chairs moving, Gabby & Madi taking about NYC compared to other places