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Neighborhood Guide: Bryant Park

Like the recently renovated Madison Square Park and the new High Line, the revitalization of Bryant Park has to be counted as one the city’s great success stories of the past 20 years. In the 1970s, and through most of the ’80s, the place was a disaster: dirty, drug-addled, dangerous. Today, thanks to private funding and public enthusiasm, Bryant Park is a sparkling jewel, a true oasis smack in the heart of one of the town’s most densely-packed commercial areas. 

First, there’s the lawn, thick and green, a 300′ x 215′ picnic area / sunbathing spot / midday napper’s paradise. When the sun goes down, this is where one of the midtown’s great communal events takes place: the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, an annual outdoor movie party that happens all summer long. Get there early with about five friends, spread out your blankets, wine and dine al fresco, and watch such crowd-pleasing classics at Close Encounters, Breaking Away, and The Sting. Believe us: this is a very fun night out under what passes for the stars in the big city.  For 2009 shows and schedule, see bryantpark.org/calendar/film-festival.php  And in the winter, the lawn is transformed into a decent-sized (and free!) ice skating rink.

 

If shade is what you crave, there’s plenty of that, too, all up and down the beautifully refurbished promenades, as well as on the large, welcoming patio that sits in the shadow of the magnificent main branch of the New York Public Library. Pull up one of the 2,000 (!) free-standing chairs, relax, read a book, break out the laptop (there’s free wi-fi throughout the grounds), watch the people go by.

 

Bryant Park is open from 7:00 am until 11:00 p.m. from May through September, and is open until 10:00 in November and December. At other times it closes at either 7:00 or 8:00 p.m.

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