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.