The Mayor believes parks and open spaces are key to the capital’s quality of life, and will invest over £220 in a new drive to improve London’s Great Outdoors – see the new Manifesto for Public Spaces unveiled on 16th November 2009.
Previously £6 million was spent in improving the quality and safety of London’s parks, funded from efficiency savings from the previous administration’s publicity budget with a high priority on clean, safe and attractive green spaces for all Londoners to enjoy.
The Help a London Park scheme was developed as part of his initiative to clean up and improve London’s rundown green spaces. The scheme improved ten parks across London. Those who live or worked in London had the opportunity to choose which parks were to be improved.
The Mayor announced the winner of his Premier Park award — a grant of £2 million. This is Burgess Park in the London Borough of Southwark.
London Open Squares weekend last June gave visitors a chance to explore hidden gardens in the city that many Londoners did not even know about.
Gotham Girl: There are so many smaller parks and gardens dotting the city — perfect gems of green (with occasional bursts of color). Part of what makes them so delightful is that one comes upon them quite unexpectedly.
I don’t know which came first – the song lyric or the nickname but New York definitely lives up to the moniker “the city that doesn’t sleep.” I love the fact that right outside my door is an inexhaustible supply of activities to engage in. London is like that too. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been there before – each visit offers a stunning variety of experiences to be had. Of course, each city has its own unique rhythm but both make me happy. I just love the hustle and bustle.
Still – there are some days when I find myself wishing for slightly less bustle. (Such as yesterday on the 6 local train going downtown. I’m not sure rush hour on mass transit is the best time for a strolling mariachi band but that’s another story for another day.) When I’m in the mood for a bit of mental “white space” or want to relax, I head to the park.
Which park? That’s the other beautiful thing about New York and London. There are so many parks to choose from.
London’s large green spaces (Green Park, Hampstead Heath, Hyde Park, Regent’s Park to name but a few) are gorgeous and justifiably considered some of the finest urban parks in the world. I am always finding new things every time I visit. For example, I don’t know why it took me so long to find the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens – I only came across it three years ago – but as soon as I did, it became one of my favorite spots. It also reminds me very much of the Alice in Wonderland that sits nestled in a leafy spot next to the Central Park boat pond. I’ve also spent many happy hours visiting the Regent’s Park Zoo, watching the “lively exchange of views” at Speaker’s Corner and strolling across Hampstead Heath. These famous green spaces are not the only stars in the London park firmament however. There are so many smaller parks and gardens dotting the city — perfect gems of green (with occasional bursts of color). Part of what makes them so delightful is that one comes upon them quite unexpectedly. Well, I come across them unexpectedly. I’m sure the people who live near them find them just where they expect to find them.
London’s vast landscape of “secret gardens” and mega-star parks is one of its most defining features and one that Londoners I know take tremendous pride in it. They are right to be proud. They have some of the most beautiful and best-known parks in the world right at their doorstep.
I must point out, with my own pride, that New York is not lacking for gorgeous greenery either. Everyone loves a comeback story and few comebacks are as remarkable as the transformation from the Central Park. From the way it was in the 70s, when no one in their right mind would go there by choice (the very name brought to mind gangs of “wilding’ teens and it was considered a muggers paradise) to what it became 20 years later and still is – a safe, friendly green oasis of fun and fabulousness.
Few things in life are as glorious as Central Park. I’ve already mentioned the Alice statue but the park is awash in statues – the array of figures along Literary Walk, the statue of Hans Christian Andersen where the Parks Department hosts storytelling hours during the summer and the “dancing” bronzes of the Delacorte Musical Clock at the Wildlife Center are some of my favorites. For spectacular strolling, the park offers the Harlem Meer and the beautifully tended Conservatory Gardens while those looking for something a bit more rugged and untamed, the Ramble (especially in the Autumn) is not to be missed. And of course there are features like the Zoo, Bethesda Terrace, the Delacorte Theater and Strawberry Fields. I could go on and on listing the things that make Central Park so amazing but we’d be here all day – and besides, being so notable Central Park often overshadows the fact that New York actually is awash in amazing parks so I feel I should give them their due as well.
The long, winding waterfront Riverside Park on the Upper West Side stretches from 72nd to 158th Streets along the Hudson River and is one of the most wonderful promenades in the city. On the opposite side of Manhattan is another waterfront worth walking along – Carl Schurz Park, a perfect gem of a park right near Gracie Mansion where NYC mayors theoretically live though it has been some considerable time since anyone has. Mike prefers his own place – and having seen it, I ask ‘Who can blame him?’
Finally, no discussion of New York City parks would be complete without mentioning Prospect Park in Brooklyn and Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. Prospect Park was designed by Olmsted and Vaux, the same duo that created Central Park. It is home not only to the first Audubon Center in the U.S., as well as an ice rink, a carousel, dozens of recreational facilities and athletic fields and – best of all – the bulk of Brooklyn’s remaining indigenous forest. Van Cortlandt Park is like a trivia game come to life. It has the country’s first public golf course, the oldest house in the Bronx, and the borough’s largest freshwater lake.
There are so many other great green spaces in New York – it’s hard to leave any of them out. There’s the Botanical Gardens (both the one in the Bronx and the one Brooklyn) and Wave Hill in Riverdale (so many New Yorkers don’t know about this one it’s like being in on the secret). Queens is home to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens (home of not one but two twentieth century World’s Fairs) and of course, Fort Tryon Park (worth the trip even if the Cloisters weren’t there – but they are so do not miss the chance to visit).
See, just as I said – I could go on and on. I’m stopping now. It’s a beautiful day here – the perfect day for a stroll in the park and that is exactly what I am going off to do.