Legacy: The Preservation of Wilderness in New York City Parks

Photographer Joel Meyerowitz shot the cloistered hideaways inside NYC's parks. Hear him speak, visit the exhibit; then explore five spots yourself.

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  • Fort Washington Park, Little Red Lighthouse, below the bridge, spring

  • Forest Park, pine woods off Forrest Park Drive, summer

  • Prospect Park, Long Meadow, autumn

  • Pelham Bay Park, Twin Island, looking north, summer

  • High Rock Park, spring

Fort Washington Park, Little Red Lighthouse, below the bridge, spring

Photographs: Joel Meyerowitz, Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

“We think we know New York,” says photographer Joel Meyerowtiz. “But most people are shocked that less than ten miles from 42nd Street, you can have a natural experience.” In 2005, the Bronx native and self-described “urban Huck Finn” was commissioned by the Department of Parks & Recreation to document the city’s green spaces, the first time this was done since the 1930s. They granted him special access to areas closed to the public, like Central Park’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary, and he snapped shots of woodlands, streams and marshes—the hidden splendor of the city. The result is his new book, Legacy: The Preservation of Wilderness in New York City Parks (Aperture). Meyerowitz talks about the tome on Wednesday 9 at the Strand Bookstore (828 Broadway at 12th St, 212-473-1452; 7pm, free). You can also tour his “Legacy” exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York (1220 Fifth Ave at 103rd St, 212-534-1672; through Mar 7, $6--$12), which features 90 of his photos, depicting all five boroughs. Here, he describes some of his prettiest images:

1 Fort Washington Park, Little Red Lighthouse, below the bridge, spring
“This is Manhattan’s only lighthouse, and it’s been there for more than 100 years. Standing next to this picturesque beacon and looking north to the Palisades is like being lost in time.” Fort Washington Park, W 178th St at the Hudson River (historichousetrust.org). Walk along the Hudson River underneath the George Washington Bridge.

2 Forest Park, pine woods off Forest Park Drive, summer
“This place helped me understand the difference between nature and parks. Parks are managed, but nature is a wild place, and the two coexist. This quiet, red-needled forest is not far from main roads, but it feels like you could be standing in the Georgia woods.” Forest Park Dr near Myrtle Ave at the southern edge of the park, Queens (718-235-0815)

3 Prospect Park, Long Meadow, autumn
“The Long Meadow isn’t exactly wilderness, but it’s spacious. There is a hidden ravine near this open field, and I was drawn to that contrast.” Enter from Prospect Park West at 3rd, 9th or 15th St, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-965-8951). Search for the ravine between the meadow and the Nethermead.

4 Pelham Bay Park, Twin Island, looking north, summer
“At Twin Island, you can see granite deposits that are 10,000 years old. It’s fantastic to be in New York City and take in these huge, glacial boulders. ” Orchard Beach, Orchard Beach Rd at Park Dr, North Games Area at Section 5, Bronx (718-430-1890). Walk to the northern end.

5 High Rock Park, spring
“This was the last spot I photographed for the book. I just stumbled upon it, high in the woods in a secret little pond. The fog settled over it, and it was dark and beautiful.” Nevada Ave, off Rockland Ave, go through the Greta Moulton Gate to get to the Greenbelt, Staten Island (718-667-2165)

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