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Neighborhood Guide: Madison Square Park

The revitalization of Madison Square Park has to be one of New York City’s great success stories of the aught years, transforming this six-acre plot from a decrepit haven for junkies and thugs to a lovely, lively public space that hosts dozens of free cultural events throughout the year. Maintained by the non-profit Madison Square Park Conservancy, it has become the vibrant heart of this historic, bustling community.

There is much to love about Madison Square Park these days. The grassy, sunny lawn is in fine shape, perfect for a picnic, or playing, or even a quick midday snooze. There are plenty of quiet shady spots as well, on the pathways that meander the park’s perimeter. Chairs are set out each day for reading or socializing or relaxing in the small plazas. And at lunchtime the place is packed with neighborhood families and office workers from the area, thanks in part to Danny Meyer’s ridiculously popular Shake Shack, located at the southern end the park. So good, and so in demand are these cheeseburgers, fries, and frozen custard “concretes”, that Meyer put a web cam up on his site, so Shack fanatics can see how long the line is before venturing away from their computers.
In addition to excellent cheeseburgers, and sun and grass, and art exhibitions by the likes of Chuck Close and Roxy Paine, and free concerts, and seasonal family events such as Halloween parades, and a terrific little playground, and an admirably large dog run, Madison Square Park also provides more permanent pleasures. Namely, a comfortable venue from which to view such landmarks as the beautiful Flatiron building, the architectural oddity Eleven Madison Avenue (designed to be 100 stories tall, they stopped construction on floor 29 when the Great Depression hit, so it’s all base, no finish), and the Metropolitan Life building which, a century ago, was the tallest in the world.
Madison Square Park is located in the Flatiron district, between 23rd and 26th Streets, and Fifth and Madison Avenues. For more information about upcoming special events and a complete guide to the park’s statue’s and monuments, visit the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s website here.