Architecture Images- Midtown
|Zion and Breen|
|5 East 53rd Street, just east of Fifth Avenue|
|International Style II|
Midtown's cultural district and surrounded by high-rises, this celebrated
"vest-pocket" park is a welcome respite from the sights and sounds of urban
Why It Works
For one, it is located directly on the street so that people are attracted to look in and enter. It has good, reasonably priced food, as well as moveable chairs and tables that let people be comfortable and have some control over where they sit. A waterfall provides a dramatic focal point and a reason to enter the park; its noise blocks out the sounds of the city and creates a sense of quiet and privacy. There's adequate shade in the summer from the trees, though they allow a beautiful dappled light to pass through their leaves.
People that PPS interviewed in the park said that they liked it because they could be "alone" in a busy city and it gave them a quiet, restful feeling. In reality, Paley Park is a quite heavily used place, but the movable chairs allow people the freedom to sit where they choose. It is also very noisy - but the noise is white noise from the waterfall.
and Jory Johnson. Modern Landscape Architecture: Redefining the Garden. New
York: Abbeville Publishers, 1991. ISBN 1-55859-023-4. SB470.53.J64 1991.
discussion and photos, p191-197. plan drawing, p192.
Lawrence A. Martin, University of Oregon. Slide from photographer's collection, September 1993. PCD.3235.1012.0545.090. PCD.3235.1012.0545.084.
Walter F. Wagner Jr., ed. "In Midtown Manhattan a Small Park Located Where the People Are", Architectural Record. August 1967. Vol 142 Number 9. p117. drawing of plan, p117. drawing of section, p17.
|I ate two
chili dogs in Paley Park for lunch last Friday. The concessionaire was
friendly, and the menu was wonderfully quirky ("I don't have any
sauerkraut"). The park was nicely crowded, and somehow each conversation was
isolated from the next. My favorite activity was to sit and face the street,
watching people as they slowed down to gape inside, stop, double-take, keep
walking, as if all of us inside the park were playing hookey, and the
passerby was tempted to join us, but then thought better of it. I think the
thought made both of our days better.
- Andy Wiley Schwartz (08/26/02 02:57 PM EST)
Paley Park spawned a number of other
similar spaces in New York, also referred to as "vest pocket" parks, but
Paley stands apart. Its subtle difference--not mentioned in the text
about the park, I believe--is the slight elevation above the street, so
one enters an outdoor room. One ascends a few steps and already feels a
bit removed from the urban din. Paley is really an ingenius space.
I'm a wheelchair user, and when I went to
Paley Park the other day, I couldn't access it because of steps. Is
there a way to get into the park that I'm not aware of? And if there
isn't, why not? It's such a lovely park and it should be for ALL the
To Jean Ryan: There are ramps on either
side of the steps. While I remember them to be steeper than current code
would allow for new construction, they seem wide enough and include
rails. It would be terrible if the ramps were useless for the wheelchair
Paley Park is a place I go in my head when
I need to escape...since I live in Ohio. It was the most amazing
surprise presented before me. I will visit it every time I return to
NYC! It's a tremendous space that has left a huge impact on me,
emotionally and intellectually with regard to the importance, value and
purpose of our living spaces.
Paley Park’s intrigue lies in what Tony
Hiss, author of Experience of Place calls a "lovable object." This is
something we can talk about, describe, and ultimately give us a reason
to return to in the future. A rippling wall of water is just that
element that we all are drawn to and bring us back time and time again.
The ramps on either side are totally unsafe
and unusable for someone who uses a wheelchair. They are too steep.
Adding railings would not help. We would not be able to get onto the
ramp and if we could, we'd tip over backwards. It's not good to be shut
out of such a tranquil oasis. I wanted to bring out-of-town guests to
the park this month because we'll be nearby, but not if I have to be on
the outside looking in. I am going to write to the William S. Paley
Foundation, Inc. about access to this park for people with disabilities.
I got engaged in Paley Park on January 24th
2003. My wedding is July 17, 2004. It was the most amazing setting and a
place my fiancé and I continue to go to whenever we want to have a
romantic moment. Paley Park will always be my favorite place in NYC the
greatest city in the world!
Up through the early 1980's there was a
college prep school on 54th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues (Rhodes
School - 11 W. 54th). Paley Park was one of the favorite lunch locations
for students at Rhodes during good weather days. And in early June every
year the place would be flooded with Rhodes students cramming for final
exams while eating hot dogs and other food from the concession stand. It
was a great place to study for tests (or at least pretend we were
studing for tests!).