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New York City - Battery Parki

New York City: Recharging the Battery

Go as far south as you can in Manhattan, to where the skyscrapers stop, and you're there. It may not seem like much, given the competition it has from Broadway, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and especially from its great big uptown relative, Central Park.

But inch-for-inch, twenty-three acre Battery Park, created from landfill during the 19th century, and named for the cannons with which the early Dutch and British settlers of Manhattan guarded New York Harbor, has as broad an appeal as any of the Big Apple's higher profile attractions.

Battery Park is home to the Castle Clinton National Monument, named for New York mayor DeWitt Clinton. Castle Clinton served as a fort during the War of 1812, and then as the place where millions of European immigrants entered America between 1855 and 1890. With the opening of Ellis Island Castle Clinton became the site of the New York City Aquarium between 1905 and 1941.

Castle Clinton has also been a theatrical venue, helping New York establish itself as the hub of the American theater culture. Today, during the summer, Castle Clinton is the site of free concerts.

Battery Park's Pier A, where thousands of tourists head each week to catch the Liberty and Ellis Island ferries, has a guestbook signed by many celebrities, like Charles Lindbergh, who were welcomed in triumph to New York there.

Next to Pier A is the Hope Garden, a memorial for AIDs victims. Planted in 1992, its number of rose varieties now, staggeringly, exceeds ten thousand. Their color and fragrance alone make the Battery well worth a visit.

The Hope Garden, as a Battery Park memorial, is one among many. Veterans of both World War II and the Korean War have been honored here, as have the New York City Police killed in the line of duty.

The eight nineteen-foot granite walls of the East Coat Memorial stand in a corner of Battery Bark overlooking the harbor, and are engraved with the names of over four thousand American servicemen who were killed in the Atlantic in World War II.

But the most heartbreaking of all the Battery Park monuments was brought to Battery Park on March 6, 2002, about six months after the attacks on the World Trade Center. Sculptor Fritz Koenig's "The Sphere", meant to symbolize world peace, had originally stood at the WTC.

On the one-year anniversary of the attacks, an eternal flame was lit by The Sphere, with a plaque explaining the monument "as an icon of hope and the indestructible spirit of this country."

Battery Park suffered from decades of neglect between the end of World War II and 1995, when the Battery Bark Conservancy was established. In the last twelve years, the Conservancy had raised funding for ten major reconstruction projects, three of which are done.

The completed projects include the Battery Promenade, a 1500-foot, bi-level walkway along the water, with a single granite bench running its length. Visitors can either enjoy a stroll along the waterfront or relax on the bench and enjoy the spectacular views of the harbor. Seeing the Stature of Liberty at sunset is an unforgettable experience.

Those walking the upper level of the Promenade will pass by the 10,000 square foot Garden of Remembrance, a vast expanse of perennial plantings dedicated to the victims and survivors of September 11, and to those who visit the park in a spirit of hope.

The Conservancy expects to have the Battery fully "recharged" by 2010. When they are done, Battery Park will be home to a state-of-the art playground, a new bike path, and a magical aquarium-themed carousel, complete with sea-blue glass which darkens and lightens automatically.

If you're sightseeing in New York, and find yourself longing for some green space, water, and quiet time, Battery Park is the perfect answer!