Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer in the City - East River Park

When office manager Frances Pena was growing up in the 1970s and 80s, East River Park, not far from her apartment on Broome Street, was rundown and filled with vagrants. Once the city began to renew itself, starting when Frances' children were young, the esplanade became a bustling community hangout spot, with Little League tournaments, birthday celebrations, jungle gyms, and grassy picnic and sunbathing grounds.

Frances, who now lives in Queens, used to go running on a track alongside the FDR Drive at 5 am and would often run into familiar faces from the neighborhood. (It's a diverse crowd, with Hispanic and other relatively recent immigrants, as well as old-time European-Americans.)

The place gets so packed on the Fourth of July, Frances says, that people camp out the night before to secure one of several public grills or a spot to set up their own. One year Frances' family got to the park at 3 AM and hung around all day, catching the fireworks over the East River almost 20 hours later.

Left, Fourth of July Fireworks as viewed from East River Park. Right, the park's ballfield.
-posted by Liana Grey

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