Riverside Park New Deal Tour

Frank da Cruz
July 23, 2015
Last update: Wed Aug 12 15:28:45 2015
New Deal sites in Manhattan's Riverside Park. Photos (except where otherwise indicated) taken by me on July 23, 2015, walking from south (72nd Street) to north (148th Street) and presented in that order.

Although Riverside Park and Riverside Drive were created between 1875 and 1910 from plans by Frederick Law Olmstead, Calvert Vaux, and Samuel Parsons, it was marred by having the New York Central Railroad run through its length, thus ruining the desired bucolic effect and blocking access to the Hudson River. By 1934, the park was in terrible shape; Robert Moses and the NY City Parks Department, using New Deal funding, designers, and labor completely leveled the original park and replaced it with a new one in which the railroad ran beneath ground level and which, unlike the original park, was full of playgrounds, ball fields, and game courts. While the original park stretched from 72nd to 125th Street, the new one went all the way north past the George Washington Bridge to Dyckman Street.

The construction of Riverside Park (a term everybody understands to encompass the park along the Hudson River from 72nd to Dyckman Street, even though the part north of 155th Street is properly known as Fort Washington Park*) was a mammoth undertaking supported mainly by PWA, CWA, and WPA from 1934 to 1941, such a huge undertaking that the records don't even bother to mention individual features like specific playgrounds, ballfields, paths, comfort stations, game courts, and so on, of which there are many. In general I believe it is safe to say of Riverside Park that “If it doesn't look new, it's New Deal” in the absence of evidence to the contrary. Prominent features that are new include everything south of 72nd Street, Cherry Walk along river between 100th and 125th Streets and several other “Greenway” extensions to fill in the missing pieces of the path along the riverbank, e.g. the segment from 86th to 90th Street and the whole area from 125th to 145th Street along the River: "West Harlem Piers", the sewage treatment plant and the new ground-level path around it, the upper part of the Peter Jay Sharp Volunteer House in the Park at West 107th Street.
As Robert Caro points out in his biography of Robert Moses,