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Teddy’s Park and Central Park Sharply Differ

By Stuart Blumin, emeritus professor, urban history, Cornell University


IMG_1197_600Why preserve Teddy Roosevelt Park, we are occasionally asked, when Central Park is only one block away? Well, for young parents with toddlers, or little ones learning to ride bikes or scooters, or older folks with wheelchairs, walkers or just sore knees or hips, that’s a very looong block, and if the distance should be overcome it’s a very different kind of park that one comes to at the end of it.

What’s so special about Teddy Roosevelt Park, besides its greater accessibility to large numbers of people who live west of the Museum, is that it’s a neighborhood park, a local “sweet spot,” and this is exactly what Central Park, for all its glories, is not.

Writing of Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square, Jane Jacobs, in her classic Death and Life of Great American Cities, describes the daily comings and goings of people in and through an urban neighborhood park—early morning dog walkers, commuters hurrying along with their coffee cups, young mothers and nannies pushing baby carriages and strollers, older folks finding each other on benches, kids on bikes and scooters after the school day, and those commuters again, minus the coffee cups, hurrying through the park only to reappear shortly after to empty the dog once again. Teddy Roosevelt Park is part of the daily life of our neighborhood, and this, along with its special beauty (and the welcoming visual terminus it provides to the long canyon of tall buildings along 79th Street), is why we must fight so hard to keep it.

Why We Love Our Urban Oasis

Sample of comments opposing the American Museum of Natural History’s plan to destroy a favorite gathering spot in Theodore Roosevelt Park. Hundreds of similar comments have appeared on change.org.

This is a beautiful space where kids ride bikes, dogs walk, people sit and talk, and children encounter sculpture without having to travel far. This may seem like a small corner of the Theodore Roosevelt Park, but it has a huge effect on the lives of all who live in the area, and all those who visit — and also those who take a break from the museum. We have so many memories of this space.

Elizabeth Bram, New York City

Although we have Central Park nearby, it is these small neighborhood green spaces that have made city living tolerable and more like cities in Europe where the many small park areas and green spaces add great beauty and happiness to the locals and tourists alike. Please don’t let us lose this space!!!

Karen Reisler, New York City

Having both a dog and a small child, this outdoor space is used every day!!! Please don’t take our green play space away.

Isis Kanevsky, New York City

We love this park and won’t let it go without a fight. Many of our neighbors are away but come fall, the museum will really hear from the neighbors who cherish the park!!!

Michelle Zierler, New York City

The Museum has enough unused space in areas which they could use, instead of taking away parts of this beautiful park enjoyed by children, people of all ages, dogs, birds, squirrels, and other creatures. Not to mention the landscaping of flowers and the beautiful trees. I for one, walk through this park every day. It takes my breath away as a beautiful piece of music, lifting the spirit.

Nadine Gill, New York City

New buildings are choking us. We need this park for greenery and relaxation.

Gladys Nussenbaum, New York City

This park was a lovely dedication to an amazing person, and deserves to be treated with respect. Not only that but it’s been a haven for myself, friends and neighbors for 15 years. The museum shouldn’t be allowed to snap up public land to pad their bottom line.

Stephanie Fitzhugh, New York City

At any time of the day and evening, there are local, often aging regulars, seated, communicating, resting. It has become a haven for the lonely, a place to think, communicate, relax and feel safe. When the city is so cluttered, uncaring, and cold, this affords us a place of warmth, community, communication and most important…a safe respite!!!! PLEASE do not destroy my garden!!!!

Penny Heyman-Schwartz, New York City

My family uses this area of the park on a daily basis. It’s where my child learned to walk.

Haley Mullen, New York City

This park is the village square of the Upper West Side. If the museum destroys our park/square, they will sow inestimable resentment amongst the local populace.

Genevieve Montgomery, New York City

It’s a crime to get rid of this oasis.

Lisa Chajet, New York City

As a member of the museum who gives annually I am against the expansion. I believe museums must have the opportunity to evolve to serve new constituencies but AMNH has so much poorly used internal space already! I love the museum but work internally and don’t take our neighborhood park.

Siobhan McDermott, New York City

Theodore Roosevelt Park has been an integral part of the lives of all the residents of this neighborhood (where I have lived for 21 years). It is an inviting gathering place and such a welcoming oasis at the top of 79th Street. To ignore its natural purpose around the Museum of Natural History is a huge mistake.

Lee Clauss, New York City

I believe there is a win-win solution to the museum’s wishes and needs, and that can address… citizens’ concerns. One only has to look at what happened recently with the Frick Museum to see how this can be accomplished. I believe, with the multitude of existing buildings, that a “smart” solution (can be found), one that considers space utilization, environmental impact and landmark considerations.

Michael Wilson, New York City

It is such a serene and special place that my family enjoys frequently. It saddens us that it may soon be transformed into a construction site.

Jonathan Eddy, New York City

It is a place where residents and neighborhood workers alike gather, find relaxation and calm; where the elderly sit to enjoy the greenery and take the air; where children with their mothers and nannies meet to play; a “town square” where neighbors converse and socialize. It is a vital part of the fabric of our neighborhood — more necessary now than ever as we face another apartment building boom on the West Side between 77th and 81st Streets.

Gregory St. John, New York City

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