What's the trade-off to live in a mega-city like New York, as big as it is in worldwide reputation, sky-scraping dimensions, and unlimited diversions? Well, jam-packed Manhattanites have learned to live a surprisingly compact lifestyle, from their pea-sized apartments to perhaps more surprisingly, some of their green public spaces. Of course, rambling expanses like Central Park are the exception to the rule, but Manhattan is actually littered with hundreds of small green spaces, ranging from micro-parks to public triangles, "greenstreets" to community gardens, and playgrounds to dog runs. Here we hone in on five traditional public parks, highlighting just five of the tiniest parks by acreage in Manhattan, perfect for when you need a little retreat that's small on size but big on R & R.
Size: .04 acres
Location: W. 71 St., between W. End Ave. & Amsterdam Ave., on the Upper West Side
Widely considered to be the smallest of the small among Manhattan's tiny park spaces, Septuagesimo Uno (meaning "seventy-one" in Latin, a nod to its 71st Street location) is a "pocket park" that was acquired in 1969. The pocket parks concept took off in NYC the 1960s when despite a land scarcity due to rampant development, the city government – often at the prodding of community organizations and local charitable groups – recognized the need for green spaces for local communities. With limited land available, the pocket parks movement often looked for small vacant lots between buildings to create such oases in densely populated neighborhoods. Such is the case for tiny Septuagesimo Uno, sandwiched as it is between two brownstones, but offering several benches and lush gardens: just enough of an urban retreat to take a welcomed breather.
Size: .06 acres
Location: Minetta La. & Ave. of the Americas, in Greenwich Village
Once upon a time, there was a small trout-laden brook along what's now called Minetta Lane, with "Minetta" serving as a misnomer for the Native American's original name for the waterway: "Mannette." Visitors to this small Greenwich Village strip today can dip into the Minetta Green, which serves as a subtle memorial to the now-covered-over brook (look out for the bluestone path, depicting images of fish, and you'll get the reference). Tiny Minetta Green proposes peaceful sitting areas, complete with benches, shrubs, and pin oak trees. If that's not enough to satiate you, consider dipping into the nearby Minetta Playground (.21 acres) or Minetta Square (.08 acres), set just across the way.
Sir Winston Churchill Square
Size: .05 acres
Location: Downing St., Carmine St., & Ave. of the Americas, in Greenwich Village
Another mini Greenwich Village oasis, Sir Winston Churchill Square, near Downing Street, sounds like it has proper English connections for good reason. It's named for the famed British Prime Minister, who had an official residence at 10 Downing Street in London, a street which shares its name with one of the streets bordering the park. This .05-acre nook--technically part of the "larger" .22-acre Downing Street Playground--proposes a pleasant sitting area, complete with gardens and a decorative iron fence.
Size: .13 acres
Location: Convent Ave., 151st St., & St. Nicholas Ave., in Harlem
This triangular landscaped garden--so-named for the Convent of the Sacred Heart that once stood here (it burnt down in 1888)--sits in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem. It became the pilot for the city's "greenstreets" program in 1989, with an aim of transforming "traffic triangles and other paved areas into green spaces." Pop in to enjoy the gazebo, several benches, gardens, and a lawn, lovingly maintained by the Convent Garden Community Association.
Abe Lebewohl Park
Size: .16 acres
Location: E. 10th St. & 2nd Ave., in the East Village
Named for Ukrainian immigrant Abe Lebewohl (1931–1996), the gentleman behind NYC culinary institution Second Avenue Deli (sadly, he was tragically shot and killed), this East Village micro-park, fronting St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, dates back to 1799. A beloved neighborhood sitting area for more than 200 years, the park currently hosts a greenmarket and summer concert series, too.