Paley Park

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Paley Park in winter

Paley Park is a pocket park located at 3 East 53rd Street between Madison and Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan on the former site of the Stork Club.[1] Designed by the landscape architectural firm of Zion Breen Richardson Associates, it opened May 23, 1967.[2][3] Paley Park is often cited as one of the finest urban spaces in the United States.[4]

Measuring 4,200 square feet (390 m2), the park offers a quiet urban oasis in the midst of the bustling city by the careful use of falling water, airy trees, lightweight furniture and simple spatial organization.[3]

Key to its success is a 20-foot (6.1 m) high waterfall spanning the entire back of the park. The waterfall creates a backdrop of grey noise to mask the sounds of the city. The park is surrounded by walls on three sides and is open to the street (with an ornamental gate) on the fourth side, facing the street. The walls are covered in ivy, and the overhead canopy formed by honey locust trees adds a degree of serenity to the park.[3]

Entrance on 53rd Street

A privately owned public space,[3][5] Paley Park was financed by the William S. Paley Foundation and was named by Paley for his father, Samuel Paley. A plaque near the entrance reads: "This park is set aside in memory of Samuel Paley, 1875–1963, for the enjoyment of the public."

Social interaction in the park was analyzed in the film The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces by William H. Whyte.[3]

Paley Park served as the inspiration for a similarly sized urban park in Charleston, South Carolina, that opened in June 2015 and is known as Theodora Park.[citation needed]

Architectural features[edit]

A wheelchair ramp is positioned on either side of the four steps that lead into the park which is elevated from the sidewalk level. The park displays a unique blend of synthetic materials, textures, colors and sounds. The wire mesh chairs and marble tables are light and don't detract from the surroundings. The park's ground surface is not terrazzo or concrete but features rough-hewn granite pavers which extend across the sidewalk to the street curb. The honey locust trees were planted at 12-foot (3.7 m) intervals. The green of the ivy-covered side walls ("vertical lawns"[5]) contrast with colorful flowers, and the white waterfall, cascading at 1,800 US gallons (6,800 l) per minute, masks the noise from the street.

Paley Park is located one-and-a-half blocks from the Paley Center for Media, which was next door to the park (as the Museum of Broadcasting) before moving to its present location.


  1. ^ Carroll, Maurice (September 20, 1967). "Paley Park: A Corner of Quiet Delights Amid City's Bustle; 53d St. Haven Has Something for Everyone". The New York Times. Retrieved June 30, 2010.
  2. ^ Paley Park, Accessed October 8, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d e Great Public Spaces: Paley Park Archived 2006-09-07 at the Wayback Machine, Project for Public Spaces. Accessed October 8, 2007.
  4. ^ The World's Best and Worst Parks Archived 2007-02-07 at the Wayback Machine, Project for Public Spaces, September 2004
  5. ^ a b Paley Park, The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Further reading[edit]

  • Kayden, Jerold S. (2000). Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780471362579.
  • Tate, Alan (2001). Great City Parks. London: Spon Press. ISBN 0-419-24420-4.

Coordinates: 40°45′37″N 73°58′30.4″W / 40.76028°N 73.975111°W / 40.76028; -73.975111