Rich, poor or middle class, if you live in Manhattan, you depend on public parks for recreation. One sign that Gotham is failing at yet another task of keeping people with resources in the city: Columbus Circle Park has been barricaded to visitors for three hot months, and city officials can’t agree on who’s to blame.
For New Yorkers who stuck it out on the concrete island for pandemic summer, the only thing to do in town was to go outside. In a vague nod to the need for more public space, the de Blasio administration closed some roads to cars in favor of pedestrians and cyclists and let restaurants operate on the street.
But what is the point of creating new—and highly imperfect—asphalt parks, if we aren’t going to use the parks we have?
Columbus Circle Park, at the northwestern tip of Midtown, is a prime example. It’s a fine gateway to Central Park, a place to sit and enjoy the quieting and cooling impact of the circular fountain. Kids and dogs splash in the water, and teens skateboard.
It’s also an important pedestrian thoroughfare, allowing people a shortcut through busy traffic.
Fifteen years ago, the city acknowledged the park’s importance, completing a $23 million renovation, including the benches and fountains. “For much of its history, Columbus Circle was neither a circle nor a good public space,” said then-Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. But now, “a multi-agency effort has created one of New York’s great new public plazas.”
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