Carl Schurz Park might be New York City's best kept secret; many locals don't even know it exists. But it is one of the city's greatest assets, a beautiful public green space and garden uptown along the East River. It is full of treasures. The Mayor's grand home, Gracie Mansion, is located in the park. So is a fabled bronze sculpture of Peter Pan originally built in 1928. It has basketball courts, two dog runs, and an elaborate playground with ample room for kids to let loose.
The park has a main promenade, a wide path where you can stroll along the East River. It also has winding paths that take wanderers to secluded green spots, outdoor sculptures, flower gardens, or impressive trees. The Carl Schurz Park Conservancy that cares for the park has a map to show visitors how to find and identify the latter. The green spaces are a popular spot for locals to sunbathe, picnic, and catch up with friends.
Carl Schurz Park is located on Manhattan's Upper East Side. It's on East End Avenue between East 84th and East 90th Streets. If you are on the numbered streets and walk east you can't miss the park. The closest subway station is the 86th Street Station at Second Avenue. The Q line runs there.
Entrances are located at East 84th, East 86th, East 87th and East 89th Streets. Wheelchair access is available at the East 84th and East 87th Street entrances and along the John Finley Walk.
During the Revolutionary War the loyalists built a fortress on this high piece of land to ward off the British. The British Army destroyed it quickly, only to have their navy crash into the same piece of land soon after. The army lost £2,000,000 of gold coin on board.
In 1799 Archibald Gracie, a Scottish shipping magnate, acquired the land and built the mansion we know today. Famous guests visited the impressive home including Alexander Hamilton, John Quincy Adams, and Washington Irving. The house was passed down to different owners before being transferred over to the New York City Parks Department in the mid-1800s. It also served as the Museum of the City of New York before becoming the Mayor's residence in 1942.
The park evolved in the mid 1800s as more New Yorkers moved to Queens and commuted into the city over the East River. The ferries landed close to the park, and this green space was built for them. The garden was named after Carl Schurz in 1910. He was a Civil War general, an advocate of the abolition of slavery, Secretary of the Interior, and the editor for the New York Evening Post and Harper's Weekly.
Things to Do in Carl Schurz Park
One of the most relaxing activities is strolling along the promenade along the East River. You can get to it by walking East through the park. Once you are there, you'll see views of the Roosevelt Island Lighthouse, the Triborough Bridge, Randall's Islands, Wards Islands, and Gracie Mansion.
Children will love visiting the playground (It's located at East 84th Street and East End Ave) with its numerous swings and its large spaces for running around. Adults might enjoy walking around the park looking for artwork. In addition to the Peter Pan statue, there is also the "Catbird," an illustration of a seated cat adorned with wings all carved in granite.
Gracie Mansion is certainly worth a visit. It's been the home of 10 mayors since 1942, and it's welcomed guests from First Lady Rosalyn Carter to Nelson Mandela. While different mayors changed the visitation policies over the years the current mayor, Bill de Blasio, has opened its doors to the public. You must take a tour to visit the home. See the tour schedule and RSVP for a visit here.
The Carl Schurz Park Conservancy is always working on improving the park, planting new trees and keeping the gardens in tip top shape. Join them on some Saturday mornings to pitch in and help with the fun work. Throughout the year the Conservancy also puts on special events from an Easter Egg Hunt to a dog costume contest for Halloween. They often stage concerts, film festivals, and other community events in the park. A schedule of all events can be found at the Conservancy's website.
New York City's first lady Chirlane McCray has also launched a book club at Gracie Mansion. She invites a renowned author to speak about his or her recent book. Often she invites experts on the book topic to be part of a panel discussion as well. The schedule is listed on the Gracie Mansion website.
Where to Eat
While there are no restaurants or food carts in the park, there are plenty of shaded green spaces for a picnic. Pick up sweets from Two Little Red Hens, a bakery known for its red velvet cupcakes. To pick up a famous New York City bagel and lox head to the neighboring Bagel Bobs on York.
Just outside the park you'll find a wide array of restaurants, bars, and cafes. The Mansion is a family-friendly diner. Don't expect anything fancy; it's all burgers and soda fountains here. For a mouth-watering pizza look no further than Nick's Restaurant & Pizzeria.