A Brief Visit to Paley Park

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Paley Park in New York City. I’d read about it for years and had put it high on my “to visit” list while I was in the city for a few days. It was certainly worth the walk (I was staying in mid-town near Lexington and E. 36th Street).

First, I passed by St. Patrick’s Cathedral, under serious exterior renovations,

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Scaffolding covering the upper portion of the front facade of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, across from Rockefeller Center.

but with its beautiful granite columns and wooden doors just begging to be photographed.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

The contrast between the wood and granite was stunning.

I continued on my walk, turned right on E. 53rd Street, and just beyond the subway entrance on the left hand side of the street spied the opening to Paley Park.

Paley Park, New York City, pocket parks

The subway entrance near Paley Park is on E. 53rd Street. Walk less than fifty feet beyond and it’s on your left.

The park, opened in 1967 and designed by the architectural firm of Zion and Breen, is considered by many to be among the finest urban spaces in the United States. Located on the former site of the Stork Club, the space was given by William Paley (who was head of CBS) in memory of his father.

Central to the success of the space is a twenty-foot high waterfall at the back of the park, which you see immediately on entering.

Paley Park, New York City, pocket parks

The waterfall stretches almost the entire width of the space occupied by the park, and its noise successfully masks the sounds from the street, creating a peaceful space for visitors.

Small, lightweight metal chairs and tables scattered through can easily be moved around to allow visitors to sit alone or in groups. On my visit, aside from a few parents with children, the park’s visitors seemed simply to be enjoying a chance to read, rest a bit, and (of course) check their email.

A woman enjoys a quiet moment in Paley Park to catch up on her reading.

A woman enjoys a quiet moment in Paley Park to catch up on her reading.

Photographing the waterfall and the tulips was also a popular pastime both for me and other visitors.

Paley Park, New York City, pocket parks

Paley Park, New York City, pocket parksAnd apparently in warmer weather, there’s a small refreshments stand where you can get a drink or a bite to eat.
Paley Park, New York City, pocket parks


A handicapped ramp on the right side of the steps up to the park. There is a similar one on the left side as well (not shown here).

The honey-locust trees in the park (not in leaf while I was there) provide high, dappled shade for visitors in the summer.
Paley Park
For more information about Paley Park, check out the description on The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s website. And plan a visit yourself if you’re in New York. It’s a lovely spot.


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2 Comments on “A Brief Visit to Paley Park”

  1. James Golden Says:

    This is one of my favorite parks. I first discovered it in 1972 when I worked on 45th near the UN. I’d walk to the park and disappear into its magic. So simple, so beautiful.

  2. Edye C. Says:

    Proof that the best designs are simple and functional. The waterfall is so elegant.

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