I love parks – I write about them enough, don’t I? – but Bryant Park is a very special kind of park. As my friend said on Friday when we ate our pizza there before seeing a show, in Bryant Park you are still very much in the city. It’s ringed with tall buildings that you can see above the tree line, and it’s filled with people at all times, people who are sitting and reading or sunbathing or talking or doing yoga or doing nothing. There’s food to eat and a carousel to ride and an outdoor bar and ping pong tables and a library space – and space to just be, even in the midst of hundreds of other people. It’s only been that way for a little over twenty years, after a renovation that turned it from an unsafe space to a celebrated public asset – with public bathrooms worth raving about.
I’ve waxed poetic about Bryant Park before, I know. And if you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, or have ever talked to me about Bryant Park, you’ll have heard at least a bit of this story. So, sorry. But every time I go to Bryant Park, especially in the summer, I flash back to a summer night in July, a few years ago, when I came to NYC for an interview. It wasn’t for the job I ended up taking, but it was in my industry, and it had gone well. I’d met some friends for happy hour and the three of us had wandered over to Bryant Park afterward.
Summer nights are long in New York. The sun doesn’t set till about 8:30. That night years ago in Bryant Park, the light that was left before the sun went down, along with the streetlights and lights from nearby buildings – Times Square, after all, is very close – cast strange and lovely blue-tinted patterns across the pavement as I sat with two friends at a table under the trees. I looked around at the park, at the shadows, at my friends, and at the city around us, and thought, “Okay. I can do this.” A month or so later I moved to New York and I’ve been here ever since.