Parks Endowed With History And Ingenuity

A view north from Riverbank State Park at West 143rd Street. | NEW YORK STATE PARKS

BY LAUREN PRICE | Harlem is home to four famed historic parks, plus a spectacular Hudson River park that made lemonade of the lemon of a water treatment plant.

Marcus Garvey Park runs from East 120th to 124th Streets at Madison Avenue. Considered central to life in Harlem for more than 150 years, the 20-acre oasis includes playgrounds, a ball field, basketball courts, a dog run, an outdoor pool, and a 1,600-seat amphitheater with enough room for a 75-person orchestra — a gift from American composer Richard Rogers, who grew up across the street. Its recreation center offers computer, kickboxing, karate, and yoga classes and a highly regarded after-school program.

Between Bradhurst and Edgecombe Avenues, from 145th to 155th Street, the historic Jackie Robinson Park comes in at nearly 13 acres. Originally built as a neighborhood playground and one of the 10 original parks to receive a pool from New York City, the park opened in 1936. Today, its recreation offerings include a fitness center, a library, a computer resource center, and an arts and crafts room. There are playground, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, and volleyball courts. Concerts abound during the summer season.

Running from 110th to 123rd Streets, the historic 30-acre Morningside Park sits on a steep incline surrounded by magnificent landscaping. Highlights include winding paths, a cascading waterfall, and wonderful scenic viewing spots. Multiple playgrounds, tennis courts, and a recreation center are supplemented by after-school programs, summer concerts, a Halloween festival, and a farmers’ market on Saturdays.

On Saturday, May 17, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., NYC Parks and Bike New York will offer free Learn to Ride classes for kids (five years old and up). Pre-registration is required, so visit for more information.

Harlem’s fourth historic park is the 23-acre St. Nicholas Park on St. Nicholas Avenue between 128th and 141st Street. Open since 1906, the park sits on historic land that played a critical role in the Revolutionary War. At the Point of Rocks near the present-day park’s south edge, General George Washington positioned himself during the Battle of Harlem Heights in 1776. The park is also home to the Alexander Hamilton National Memorial. The park has plenty of ball courts, playgrounds, spray showers, and barbequing areas.

Riverbank State Park is an ingeniously created 28-acre, multi-level facility set 69 feet above the Hudson River near 143rd Street — atop a water treatment facility. Facing a spectacular backdrop, the park includes a riverside promenade, picnic areas, a carousel, swimming pools, a gym, an 800-seat cultural theater, an athletic center, a softball field, tennis and basketball courts, a 400-meter, eight-lane running track, a football/ soccer field, docking facilities, a covered roller/ ice skating rink, and a large restaurant. Currently under renovation, the park is due to reopen by late summer.