PARADISO’S Parks of GREENWICH Village
By Anthony Paradiso
The summer is over — but that doesn’t mean the community served by these parks should forget about them or what they symbolize. This is a story about two of the most underappreciated parks in Greenwich Village.
According to nycgovparks.com, between 1789 and 1829 Christopher Street “was subdivided into lots and blocks laid out along its length.” In 1835 a “devastating fire” occurred in Greenwich Village and residents petitioned the city to “condemn a triangular block at the corner of Christopher, Grove and West Fourth streets.” That was the spot where Christopher Park was born.
Christopher Park holds a significant place in the history of the LGBTQ movement, as well. The Stonewall Inn, which was raided by police in June of 1969, is still open today and serving the community. That raid caused rioting which spilled out onto Christopher Street and lasted for several days. These events led to Christopher Park and the Stonewall Inn being placed on the New York State Register as well as the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, there are benches arranged side-by-side around the inside of the park, as well as three monuments: A flagpole dedicated to an “elite Civil War unit” called the 1861 Fire Zouaves, a bronze statue dedicated to Civil War General Philip Sheridan (located outside), and the Gay Liberation Monument.
Nycgovparks.com describes how the late American artist, George Segal, created this monument.
“Segal’s conception for Gay Liberation is typical of his work. Four figures—two standing males and two seated females—are positioned on the northern boundary of the park, in natural, easy poses. Using a process in which bronze casts are made from plaster moulds from the human models, Segal tempers the realistic surfaces with an unearthly, white-painted finish. The result is specific, evocative, and understated, showing the public comfort and freedom to which the gay liberation movement aspired.”
If you exit the park and walk to West Fourth Street and make a left, you will see a fenced-in triangle at the intersection of West Fourth Street and Washington Place. This is the Sheridan Square Viewing Garden and like many of the city’s parks, it became a garden because Village residents worked hard to make it happen. Sheridansquare.org tells the story of how in 1981, “a group of Village Residents led by the late Vera Schneider formed the Sheridan Square Triangle Association.” The association and the Transportation department worked together to create the garden, which can be viewed (not entered) 24 hours a day. Although Christopher Park is nearby, the Sheridan Square Viewing Garden really brightens up the area around the Stonewall Inn.
Jefferson Market Gardens
Just two blocks east from Christopher Park is the Jefferson Market Garden and this is a place you want to visit several times. I went there on a hot day in the middle of August, entered through the gate on Greenwich Street and walked the shaded, brick path.
There are many different plants, trees and flowers to see in Jefferson Market Garden, but I’ll go over three highlights—the Rose Garden, the lawn and the Koi Pond.
The first thing you will encounter on the path is the rose garden on the right-hand side. The rose beds are enclosed by hedges and there is space to walk in between them to get a better look at the different kinds of roses in the garden.
The fishpond or ‘Koi Pond’ has green lilies and plenty of fish. The fish swim around and give the park a nice balance of peacefulness and animal life. Last, but not least, is the 800-pound gorilla in the room—the LAWN! It may just be a lawn, but when the sunlight streams down, it looks utterly beautiful. On a 90-degree day it may not be the place to be, but on a 70-degree day or when we get more into the fall, this lawn will certainly be a welcoming place for the community.
That’s all the time we have to discuss these two parks. I hope you learned about the role that Christopher Park played as a place where members of the LGBTQ community and their friends didn’t back down from those who were trying to oppress them. Enjoy Jefferson Market Garden before the cold weather comes!