6/30/2008

Great Parks of the Upper East Side

Here on the Upper East Side, when we think of open space and parks, our thoughts usually first drift to the vast and grand expanses of Central Park. While, Central Park is right on our door step, there are many other hidden gems that are often overlooked where you can go and relax without the crowds of Olmstead's envisions.

In this installment of the Upper East Side Informer, I wanted to focus on four places, two on the south end of the UES and two on the north end; Queensboro Oval, The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden, Ruppert Park and Asphalt Green. These parks range from as small as half an acre to five acres but are all great destinations with their own character and reasons for visiting.

Queensboro Oval, serves as a premier location for softball leagues on the Upper East Side. Underneath the Queensboro Bridge on York Avenue between 59th Street and 60th Street, this red clay-covered ball field is open to the public with built in bleachers and has enough room for two games going at once with some warming up as well. It also offers the unique views of playing under a legendary bridge, surrounded by brownstones, tenements and high rises all at once.



Next stop is The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden. Located about a half a block from Queensboro Oval on 60th Street, tucked away halfway between York and 1st Avenue on the north side of the street, this landmarked inn is managed by the Colonial Dames of America and provides tours that can bring you back to antebellum era of when this part of town was still the countryside for city dwelling New Yorkers. The grounds of this park, provide a beautiful escape to a tree lined oasis, complete with a gazebo in the backyard.

About 30 blocks to the north, nestled between 90th and 91st Streets on 2nd Avenue in the shadow of the Ruppert Towers sits Ruppert Park. Named for Colonel Jacob Ruppert, the legendary owner of the Yankees during their glory years of the twenties and thirties, this park is a favorite destination of parents to bring their kids for its vast playground insulated by the parks many trees on its exterior. Ruppert Park is a relative newcomer to city parks, built in 1979 by the state housing development agency and transferred to the city in 1997.


With a quick walk two avenues east to York Avenue at 90th Street is Asphalt Green. With one of the upper east side's premier pools, Asphalt Green also maintains a beautiful track and field area, where it runs its sports programs as well as its playground in front of its main building. A testament to neighbors fighting for their community, Asphalt Green was originally saved from being developed into a high rise by local residents George and Annette Murphy in the 1970's. Although many of the programs at Asphalt Green are fee based, about one third are free to all.
There are many more great parks and hideaways from the urban landscape on the UES and we will get to all of them, but for now I hope you might get to enjoy one of these in your travels.

FYI - for a fun video on Carl Schurz Park, with a perspective on pets, have a look at Pet Park on Uppereast.com.

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