I made a trip to the East Coast which included a short visit to my former hometown, New York City. Armed with a long list of places to see in a few days, I experienced only bits of Manhattan’s thriving neighborhoods between my stops. Strolling down 42nd Street one weekday afternoon, I stopped to buy a soft pretzel from a street cart vendor – salted, of course – and found myself standing in front of the Main Public Library. I climbed the library stairs toward Bryant Park and passed outdoor tables filled with art supplies and kids creating their own masterpieces. I rounded a corner into Bryant Park and was stunned by the vibrant scene in front of me.
I remember working in Midtown in the early part of my career and using shortcuts through the city in an effort to avoid the constant crowds on the streets. Bryant Park was not a place I would cut through. Known to locals as Needle Park due to its criminal activity, the park’s mature trees provided much needed shade along the streets and views of nature, although the latter was appreciated from afar. It was not a safe place to wander into by accident, day or night.
Decades later, with improvements in design, programmed activities, and operational oversight, my memory of Bryant Park unraveled as I discovered lessons in urban design that will remain with me professionally and personally.