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REMEMBERING NEW YORK

Stories from the city, past & present Part 1

CENTRAL PARK

My earliest memory of Central Park? A visit after a blizzard. We were living in Queens then and my mom and I trudged our way over to the R train and found ourselves immersed in white an hour later when we emerged from our ride underground. This was NYC in the 70s. I was 6.

We only made the trip because of a first grade assignment on NYC landmarks. In general, visits to the park were rare, for the same reasons we didn't come into the city much as a family. No reason to leave Queens, my parents would say.

But I did leave Queens one day. When I was 18, I moved into an apartment in Chinatown, leaving the borough of my childhood behind.

And I spent more time in the park those years than probably anywhere else in the city.

Sheep Meadow was our spot. My friends and I would gather there a few times a week, never making any specific plans, but we knew that everyone would eventually make their way there.

There weren't as many green spaces and parks in the city 25 years ago. Bryant Park was undergoing restoration and trying to shed its seedy reputation. Tompkins Square Park was tent city, still reeling from the riots. The meadow, with its 15 acres of grass was a rare thing.

We even camped out in sleeping bags one September evening in '89, after seeing too many flyers about the Rapture. We didn't believe the world was really going to end, but...what if? Where would we want to be if it did?

The world didn't end that day, of course, and at half past midnight my friends and I left the Meadow, scattering in all directions in all five boroughs to our own beds.

I thought about that night we waited for the world to end when I walked through the park today. It made me laugh and I made my way towards the Meadow, not really knowing exactly where it was anymore, but relying only on my instincts to get me there.

Jenna Park is a designer, photographer and co-owner of the Brooklyn bake shop, Whimsy & Spice. Instagram.com/whimsyandspice Blog: sweetfineday.com

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