The New Curb Appeal of Central Park's Strangers' Gate
Ok, for folks who park on the street, this post might get your Irish up. It entails the eventual loss of three parking spaces on Central Park West.
That's the bad news. But the good news is that what I am about to report is a story of grassroots efforts to increase safety and improve aesthetics of "Strangers' Gate" -- the W. 106th Street portal to Central Park.
Thanks to neighbors' efforts, in particular to transportation advocate Peter Frishauf with help from Henry Rinehart, in mid-January Community Board 7 passed a resolution to improve access to this entrance to Central Park by opening the curb and prohibiting parking immediately outside it. Department of Transportation signage should be updated soon so that the approach will look like the photo below instead of the view in the photo above.
This will protect pedestrians who flow through Strangers' Gate, affording them better visibility of traffic on Central Park West and giving drivers a much better chance of seeing exiting and entering park goers.
I love the name of this gate and was vaguely aware that many of the park's entrances bear names. In fact, there are twenty named gates. Each honors a special population of New York City in an early nod to the fact that this vast green space was to be 'the People's Park.' You might have been entering the park at W. 100th Street all these years and not have realized that that is Boys' Gate. Of course, anyone can go through it. But if you want to use Girls' Gate, you're going to have to go clear around to E. 102nd Street. Or you can pop down to the Dakota and enter through Women's Gate.
The key to the 20 gates is below.
The bitter irony of naming the gates for different NYC populations is that in creating Central Park, land was taken by eminent domain, and the African-American neighborhood known as Seneca Village was demolished in 1857. You won't see a Seneca Gate on the list below, but the rich history of Seneca Village is becoming better known.
The story has been told in recent plays and films, by creative writers, historians and archeologists. I will be posting more about it over the month of February. But while thinking about our newly visible Strangers' Gate, I wanted to pause and think about those who are largely invisible, those who were dispossessed of their homes, whose community was razed, and whose story was mostly lost -- all in the push to create a park that is a stranger to none of us.
Choose any of these 20 gates and enter this urban sanctuary with a thought toward Seneca Village on your way in.