Battery Park lies at the southernmost tip of Manhattan. It’s filled with gardens, sculpture, and monuments and has a fabulous view of the Statue of Liberty. Visitors here can find loads of public points of interest, including the Netherland Memorial Flagpole, the New York Korean War Veterans Memorial, Battery Urban Farm, SeaGlass Carousel, and more.
I took a free tour that began at the Netherland Monument, at the park’s northeast entrance. Given to New York City by the people of Holland in 1926, one side has a relief of Peter Minuet “buying” Manhattan from a Native American figure who stands for the Lenape people who originally lived here. On another side is a seal incorporating two beavers, a nod to the Dutch trade in fur; two barrels in tribute to the Dutch East India trade in rum, and a stylized windmill, a perennial symbol of Dutch life.
The Battery Urban Farm, the largest educational farm on public land in Manhattan, is a one-acre-plus garden where veggies and herbs are planted and tended by kids from downtown schools as well as adult volunteers. School groups visit so kids can see that food doesn’t come wrapped in plastic in the supermarket but growing in the field. In the fall, harvested results are distributed among area schools where they are cooked and eaten.
A larger-than-life bronze statue shows Giovanni da Verrazzano, who was born in Florence, Italy, but sailed on behalf of France. Verrazzano explored the coast line of the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada and, in 1524, became the first European known to enter New York Bay. He searched for a passage from the east coast to the Pacific Ocean but never found it. One version of his death is that on a trip ashore, possibly on the island of Guadalupe, he was killed and eaten by native inhabitants.
For a contemplative escape, duck into the Labyrinth where bricks (somewhat in need of mowing to expose them) form seven consecutive circles in memory of those lost on 9/11. There is also a beautiful curved bench in this peaceful mini-park.
Photo: Nimo Photography.
The tour stops at the New York Korean War Veterans Monument, a 15-foot high block of black granite with the shape of the soldier cut out of the center, known as the “Universal Soldier.” Each year on July 27 at 10am the sun shines through the soldier’s head, acknowledging the time that hostilities in Korea ceased in 1953.
Castle Clinton or Fort Clinton was later known as Castle Garden. It was the first U.S. immigration station (before Ellis Island) where over 8 million people arrived between 1855 and 1890. Later, it morphed into a beer garden, then a theater where Jenny Lind, the Swedish soprano, sang; an exhibition hall and the New York City Aquarium. Today it’s where you buy Statue Cruises tickets to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
A modern bronze statue, The Immigrants, movingly depicts immigrants who would have passed through Castle Clinton in the late 19th century. The Rodin-like work is highly emotional featuring a priest, a worker, a freed African slave, and an Eastern European Jew, most of them barefoot.
At the water’s edge is another very moving sculpture honoring the United States Merchant Marines who lost more lives in WWII than did any other branch of service. The work, by Marisol Escobar, shows two men on their ship’s deck and a third in the water, his hand outstretched in the hope of rescue. Not to be, he drowns twice a day as the tide comes in.
Four huge granite slabs form the East Coast War Memorial, inscribed with the names of the more than 4,600 people who died or went missing in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. There is also a gigantic bronze eagle. The memorial was dedicated by then-President John F. Kennedy.
At the end of the tour you pass the SeaGlass Carousel. Shaped like a chambered nautilus, for $5 kids and adults can ride one of the 30 big fish that glow and play music. The carousel is open every day from 10am-10pm.
There are many other monuments and special spaces in Battery Park including the Irish Hunger Memorial, gardens, plazas, and places to eat. For more information visit bpcparks.org.