Five best parks for viewing public art

Find something besides trees and your fellow New Yorkers to stare at.

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  • City Hall Park

  • City Hall Park

  • City Hall Park

  • Battery Park City

  • Fort Greene Park

  • Socrates Sculpture Park

  • West Harlem Piers Park

City Hall Park

Click #3 for a 3-D image (3-D glasses required).

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City Hall Park
Not only does this green space offer prime people-watching opportunities—observe the just-married couples spilling out of City Hall, or the thousands crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on foot—it's also a favored destination for outdoor art. Consider the Public Art Fund's latest exhibit, Statuesque (through Dec 3), which features ten works scattered throughout the park. Don't miss Texas artist Aaron Curry's playful, abstract assemblages of eye-catching neon metal plates (such as Big Pink and Yellow Old Boy, pictured) or British sculptor Thomas Houseago's Untitled (Sprawling Octopus Man), a forbidding bronze form that crouches low, seemingly ready to spring out at passersby. Centre St between Broadway and Chambers St (nycgovparks.org)

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Battery Park City
Parks This historic area comprises nearly 36 acres; within, there's a wellspring of art—20 pieces in all—for the strolling masses. Begin at Nelson A. Rockefeller, Jr. Park, where mischievous bronze creatures scramble over benches as part of Tom Otterness's The Real World. Farther south, you'll see Martin Puryear's Pylons, two totemlike stainless steel structures—one made of interwoven strips, the other of solid geometric blocks—overlooking the Hudson River. In Robert F. Wagner Park, keep an eye out for Louise Bourgeois's naughty Eyes, two round orbs that strongly resemble a certain part of the female anatomy. Enter at River Terr between Chambers and Vesey Sts (212-417-2000, batteryparkcity.org)

Fort Greene Park
This 30-acre parcel has a long association with creative types: It was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, and architect Stanford White created its towering Prison Ships Martyrs Monument. Now the 30-acre expanse displays work by local artists as part of the city's Art in the Parks program. Jennifer Wong and Daniel Goers's Myrtle Avenue Bird Town (through December) consists of more than 50 birdhouses made of salvaged material, hanging in the trees. Look between the leaves for a blue, white and brown cabin fashioned out of Jenga-like pieces of scrap wood, and a pyramid of recycled glass from a Red Hook glassblowing studio. Enter at Myrtle Ave and Washington Park, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (fortgreenepark.org)

Socrates Sculpture Park
Local artist Mark di Suvero led the effort to transform this roughly five-acre enclave from an abandoned lot to an outdoor art space in 1986. Over the years, it's become a major venue for up-and-coming artists. A themed exhibit runs through every spring and summer; this year, it's "Cityscape: Surveying the Urban Biotope" (through Aug 1), a meditation on nature's presence in cities. There's also a showcase of its sculptors-in-residence through the fall and winter, and SSP offers special events, fitness classes and film screenings; visit the website for a full schedule. 32-01 Vernon Blvd at Broadway, Long Island City, Queens (718-956-1819, socratessculpturepark.org)

West Harlem Piers Park
The area along the Hudson River around 130th Street used to be a car-filled lot, but the two-acre space was refreshed last May with newly minted piers, grassy recesses, and bike- and footpaths connecting to the Hudson River Valley Greenway. Jamaican artist Nari Ward has crafted three mirrored stainless-steel sculptures, named Voice 1, Voice 2 and Voice 4: Their shapes—a circle and lines atop a raised cone—recall the eyelets that guide the lines on fishing rods, in a nod to the neighborhood residents who often show up to fish at 5am. Hudson River between 125th and 135th Sts (nycgovparks.org)

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