Farewell, New York: Riverside Park

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but moving across the country makes the writer set aside those feelings until he unpacks a few more boxes. Now that we’re nearly settled in Houston, we continue our look back at a few of our favorite New York haunts.

When we moved to New York, we were excited to be close to Central Park, that inviting pillar of green set like a jewel in the middle of Manhattan. And Central Park is lovely. We spent many happy afternoons meandering through it, and a few frustrating moments trying to find our way out. But it was another park that stole our hearts and most of our evening strolls.

Riverside Park is a four-mile spit of land hugging the west side of Manhattan along the Hudson River. Our apartment was about half a block away. We used the park for exercise, relaxation, conversation, and sightseeing. We probably spent more hours there than any other non-work, non-apartment location in the city.

In the spring, we walked north along the river, stopping to admire the civil war monument and Joan of Arc. We scampered over Mount Tom, not knowing at the time that the rock under our feet was one of Edgar Allan Poe’s favorite spots for a good brood. In the summer we ventured south, past the temporary sculptures and into Hudson River Park below 59th Street. One evening in August, we caught a screening of The Royal Tenenbaums on Pier 1. When we saw Sully in late September, we gasped and clutched one another as Tom Hanks guided his plane over the river and prepared to splash down. Not out of shock or suspense – after all, we knew how the story ended – but to say to one another, “That’s our park!”

And it was, for a long time. Riverside Park was our refuge when we were new to the city and trying to find our feet. It was our easy escape in the summer, when we needed to stretch our legs. We forgot about it a bit in the fall, when we were entrenched in our jobs and busily planning our wedding. And it seemed unthinkable in winter, when the wind whipping along the Hudson was tough enough to deal with a block or two inland. I don’t remember our last visit, but I’m sad it wasn’t more recent. As we drove out of the city two weeks ago, I felt a twinge of sadness as we passed by Riverside on our way to the George Washington Bridge. We never said a proper goodbye. But I have a feeling we’ll be back one day, as second-time residents or umpteenth-time visitors. And we’ll be sure to make time for a walk in the park. 


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