Beautiful Bryant Park: grace, civility and HBO

Still in a New York state of mind, so allow me to tip the TVFMF hat to HBO. The premium cable network sponsors a summer long outdoor film festival in the most civilized patch of green on the planet–Byrant Park.
The Manhattan greenspace is an inspiring find. Just a few blocks from the noise and neon of Times Square, it is an oasis of tranquility and meditation in the middle of an urban canyon.

On Monday nights throughout the summer, HBO sponsors an outdoor film festival. Movies are projected (real 35mm, not that digital crap) on a giant, louvered screen. Last Monday I sat on a marble bench at the far end of the park and watched a classic Bugs Bunny cartoon from the ’50s. Then came the main feature, Twelve Angry Men starring Henry Fonda and a staggering bench of top character actors. This Monday Bonnie & Clyde was the main feature.
Monday in the park with Bugs: enchanting Bryant Park
Throughout the year, the park features concerts, poetry readings and all kinds of attractions. Check out the schedule here.
HBO does not clog the bill with promos for Boardwalk Empire or True Blood or anything else they could easily promote. There is a simple announcement and then the show starts. Would that the folks behind the Toronto International Film Festival would follow this lead when it comes to a simple, elegant, sophisticated approach toward corporate partnerships. Sometimes less really is more.
After the cartoon, the giant flood lights 50 stories up on a high rise facing the park are turned off, leaving the football field-sized lawn of Bryant Park in darkness for the feature. It was drizzling on and off last Monday but people came prepared and few left.
New Yorkers in the know flood this park day and night. The field is rimmed by tall, elegant London plane trees and gardens as well as hundreds of green wire chairs and tables. Not one stick of furniture is chained to anything. Most are occupied by people with books, laptops or just 20 minutes to unwind. The entire park is a WiFi zone, and it makes a hell of an office.

Thirty years ago, when I first came to New York as a university student, Byrant Park was a dark, broken field, a haven for junkies and a virtual crime zone. You just didn’t go there. Today it is all culture and civility. Anyone studying urban planning should investigate and celebrate this great civic turnaround.
The park actually dates back to the 1840s and covers land once used as a mid-town reservoir. At the east end stands the mammoth New York Public Library. A vine covered Bryant Park Grill and Cafe sits right behind the library, on the terrace, offering a breathtaking view of the park.

There is a small carousel which costs two bucks to ride. There are statues and busts throughout the park along with ping pong tables and chess and backgammon boards.
All this was right outside the Bryant Park Hotel on 40th Street. Staying there isn’t cheap, but 12 floors up, I was treated to a spectacular view of the park outside three large windows. You have to pay for the WiFi at the hotel, so take your laptop to the park.

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