Monday, August 30, 2010

Word for Word Poetry Blogs

We've tapped some very special guest bloggers to help us celebrate this summer's Word for Word Poetry series at Bryant Park. They provide a behind-the-scenes look at each event and divulge about the talented poets who share their work in the park. Experience Word for Word Poetry yourself every Tuesday through September 14, from 7pm to 8:30pm, at the Bryant Park Reading Room.

Anne Lovering Rounds on Word for Word Poetry, August 24

Who would have known it was summer? Last Tuesday, audiences braved a cool and blustery night in the park, gathering to hear four exceptional poets. Their poems of place, as organizer Tess Taylor called the work on the evening’s agenda, went far beyond the city, though in the end we were called back to Manhattan. Each of these poets engaged in questions of travel: literal journeys and metaphysical, explorations without and within.

Sean Hill read first, starting with poems from his 2008 book, Blood Ties & Brown Liquor (University of Georgia Press). The title alone is a clue to the way Hill writes colors—of urban environment, of nature, of skin—into his poetry. The poems in Blood Ties are set in Hill’s hometown of Milledgeville, Georgia, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, but to call them “historical” isn’t enough to capture their sensuousness. Listen to the ways the speaker multiplies the implications of “McIntosh Street,” a black business district: “like the apple red but not / red delicious red but red / like redeye gravy on grits / at Gus’s or red like stoplights / but they’re also green and yellow / like apples in Allen’s Market…” Hill takes what seems ordinary (a red apple) and carefully and consistently adds to the palette; different reds thicken the world. Again and again, shades and particular colors defined the spaces of these poems: “Ivory soap,” “graying water,” and “colored soldiers cross[ing] the slate ocean” in “Auspice”; the “yellow sunshine on a white plate,” a breakfast in “Uncle John”; hands the “black-brown / of crossties— / creosote soaked” in “Hands 1921.” Hill currently lives in Bemidji, Minnesota, a place he called “very white,” both in its harsh winters and in its racial makeup. His final poem, “Sam Kee, I imagine…” envisioned the life of an opium dealer, put on trial and acquitted in Bemidji, “left / in peace to make a living getting / their sheets as white as snow.” From jade green to blood red to snow white, Hill’s colors are gorgeous, intricate, painful; they are the hinges on which his poems turn, observing landscape, working out identity.

Friday, August 27, 2010

From the Archives: America's Best Restroom

In this post, BPC’s archivist Anne Kumer, shares the history of Bryant Park's restrooms, currently in the running for 2010 America's Best Restroom competition.

The tradition of comfort and hospitality is longstanding in Bryant Park. The first restrooms date back to 1911, when the main branch of the New York Public Library was built. Designed by architects John Merven Carrére and Thomas Hastings, the Beaux-Arts building was completed in 1911, with a raised terrace at the rear of the library and two comfort stations at the east end of Bryant Park. These structures originally functioned as two separate restrooms - women’s at 40th street, and men’s at 42nd street.

The photo above shows the 40th Street Women's Restroom, and back of the NYPL in the early 1920s. If you look closely, you can also see the ghostly evidence of passerby on 40th Street (the result of a long exposure and slow shutter speed), as well as the William Cullen Bryant monument.

The men’s restroom (at 42nd Street) remained open and functional until the 1960s, when it was closed because of disrepair and poor use.

The original women’s restroom (at 40th Street) became the district office for the Parks Department until March 1, 1988, when the Bryant Park Corporation (then called Bryant Park Restoration Corporation) took over day-to-day management of the park.

After the Bryant Park Corporation assumed management, the 40th street structure was turned into a storage area/office for park operations. The original men’s room at 42nd street was renovated as a restroom for both sexes. Starting with the 1988 renovation, the restrooms have had full-time attendants. Since then, we have added scented oil diffusers, fresh flowers, modernized the facilities, and even been nominated for America's Best Restroom. Vote for us here. There are only five days left to vote!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Last Chance to Vote for Your Favorite Bryant Park T-Shirt!

Time is running out to tell us what you think of our Bryant Park T-shirt designs, created by Bryant Park Corporation's in-house Graphic Designer, Jamie Song.

Your votes and comments will determine the top three T-shirts that will be developed, produced, and available for sale in the online Bryant Park Shop this fall.

If you haven't already, please check out the nine preliminary T-shirt designs below and let us know what you think. Just click on your favorite image and hit Submit at the end of the poll to cast your vote. If you like more than one design, feel free to refresh the page and vote again!

We're eager to move forward with your favorite designs, so the poll will close at the end of the day tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Boules are on a Roll

On the heels of our August 5th post about the recent flurry of media attention for Bryant Park Pétanque, comes yet another article about the French game's renaissance around the globe.

Pétanque, and the Bryant Park program, received international recognition last week in an AP article French bowling? Yes, pétanque's got swank, by Emma Vandore.

The story was picked up by countless news outlets around the world, including Fox, CBS, ABC, and delves into the game's origins, major tournaments, champion players, and glamorous celebrity enthusiasts. Our Pétanque Courts at 42nd Street and 6th Avenue were given due credit as the epicenter of New York City's cultural "melting pot" of pétanque players.

Around the same time, cartoonist Steve Brodner revealed on his website the original Bryant Park Pétanque illustration he submitted to The New Yorker (below), and the behind-the-scenes story of why it was revised before publication.

Brodner's Bryant Park Pétanque cartoon that was published in the August 2, 2010 issue of The New Yorker can be seen here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Word for Word Poetry Blogs

We've tapped some very special guest bloggers to help us celebrate this summer's Word for Word Poetry series at Bryant Park. They provide a behind-the-scenes look at each event and divulge about the talented poets who share their work in the park. Experience Word for Word Poetry yourself every Tuesday through September 14, from 7pm to 8:30pm, at the Bryant Park Reading Room. 

Anne Lovering Rounds on Word for Word Poetry, August 17

As the Word for Word reading was about to begin last Tuesday, a particularly balmy evening and a wonderful night to hear poetry in the park, I happened to overhear a conversation. A young man behind me was describing to his friend the way green spaces were especially conducive to reading. “I can’t read near concrete,” he said.

It was a commentary about silent, solitary reading. But with its ceiling of leaves, the Reading Room has an equal ability to draw listeners completely out of the built, Midtown surrounding. It really is a room, and this intimate quality of the space especially complemented Tuesday’s readers, a cluster of Canadian poets. As the six (six!) readers passed the mic, the night developed a close, connected, chamber-music feel.      

Ken Babstock, the first of those six, opened with “Hunter Dearie and Hospital Wing”— what he called a “toxic ballad.”  Babstock’s way with meter is masterful, and it was a pleasure to pick out the dactyls from these lines of toxic content: “children of blood lung”; “Hospital Wing sings to his children.” In “Autumn News from the Donkey Sanctuary,” we also heard a blend of registers. The poem begins from a mild satire of community newsletter-style writing (a donkey named Pliny the Elder?) but soon slips into the more sinister territory of the “perimeter fence, / the ID chips like functional cysts slipped / under the skin,” and ends with straightforward, serious, and resonant instructions: “Have a safe winter / outside the enclosure.” Babstock closed with a poem called “Brno.” How do you even say that? Babstock asked with a laugh, identifying Brno as a town in the Czech Republic. But the poem found its groove in complexities of consonants, elucidating rhymes like “experimental theater” and “V-neck sweater,” chewing on a sci-fi alphabet (“new SIM card and Vodafone PIN”). The more alien or unpronounceable the language, the more Babstock thrives on making surprising, elegant verse out of it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Run to the Park...

...and claim a spot for the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival finale tomorrow evening.

The 2010 season closes with 1967's runaway hit, Bonnie and Clyde, rounding out 18 years of classic films shown on the big screen in the park. Lay out a blanket or pull up a chair and watch Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway star as the two most attractive bank robbers ever to rampage across the Midwest. 

Video filmed during the Lawn opening for Rosemary's Baby on August 2, 2010. You can find this video and more fun footage from the park on our YouTube Channel at 

UPDATED 2:30pm, 8/23/10: Tonight's Film Festival presentation of Bonnie and Clyde will go on as scheduled, rain or shine. Because of the weather, the Lawn will be closed tonight. The film will begin around 8:20pm. Unfortunately, we cannot reschedule the movie.

Friday, August 20, 2010

From the Archives: Library Under the Lawn

In this post, BPC’s archivist Anne Kumer, shares a piece of the park’s rich history.

In 1983 the Bryant Park Corporation retained landscape architecture firm Hanna / Olin Ltd., now The Olin Studio, for the re-design of Bryant Park. Over the next several years, plans were drafted and the park began its transition into a beautiful, well used public space.

Concurrent with Bryant Park’s facelift, the New York Public Library embarked on a large construction project of its own: the addition of 120,000 square feet of library stacks beneath the surface of the Bryant Park lawn.


The excavation for the two story stacks began in July 1988, with Tishman Realty & Construction Co., Ltd. managing construction.

Requiring a 30 foot excavation in the center of the park, the finished stacks accommodate up to 3.2 million books and 500,000 reels of microfilm, doubling the library’s storage capacity.  The stacks are connected to the main library by a 62 foot long tunnel. Additionally, there is a fire escape on the west side of the Bryant Park lawn, disguised by a dedication plaque.

The stacks took less than a year to complete, and the lawn was seeded, and in place by September 15, 1989. The park partially reopened to the public in spring of 1990.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Unwrapping the Starbox

You witnessed the media stir. Heard about it on the radio and read about it on the news. For the past four Fridays you lined up on the Fountain Terrace for your chance to get inside the wondrous and elusive Starbox.

Along the way you met Shorts, the befuddled assistant, you saw two chirping girls besotted with the idea of meeting a real live star, and you may have even sang along with a street performer keeping you entertained through the wait.

But if you didn't make it to the park, you may still be asking the big question....who was inside the Starbox?

The answer from Art.Party.Theater.Company, creator of Starbox, is “the biggest star of all"…you!

The show was going on all around as you waited and you played a bigger role than you may have realized. By engaging in the work of art that was unfolding, you became the star of your own experience, hopefully an enjoyable one! You may not have met Cameron Diaz inside, but you did star in your very own public theater display and became an integral character in the story of someone waiting on line behind you. And that is a truly unique New York experience.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Word for Word Poetry Blogs

We've tapped some very special guest bloggers to help us celebrate this summer's Word for Word Poetry series at Bryant Park. They provide a behind-the-scenes look at each event and divulge about the talented poets who share their work in the park. Experience Word for Word Poetry yourself every Tuesday through September 14, from 7pm to 8:30pm, at the Bryant Park Reading Room. 

Anne Lovering Rounds on Word for Word Poetry, August 10

The three poets in the park’s Word for Word reading last Tuesday night were poets of shape-shifting.  As the evening unfolded, we heard poems speak English and speak Spanish, inhabit memory and confront the present, and move from the real to the surreal and back again.

Brenda Cárdenas, poet laureate of Milwaukee and author of the collection Boomerang, opened the reading with a travel poem, “On the Coast in Pedasi.” What began as evocative recollection turned into a meditation on migration as the poet observed a cloud of bees “swarm the plaza”: “Watch your step,” the poem told us, underscoring Cárdenas’s own keen powers of observation. “Someone,” inspired by a photo she had seen on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation in Wisconsin, addressed with terse grace the exchanges implicit in photography. Through subtle wordplay— the photographer “like the poet” with “no reservation,”  “nothing to trade / in upturned hands,” the subject who “will give the camera / his best shot”—this poem opened up the multiple, rich, and perturbing transactions of the portrait. Cárdenas has a wonderful ability to balance the contemplative with exuberant, acrobatic language. In “That Beehive ’Do,” she rhapsodized the hairstyle she had worn for a London performance piece (“That beehive ’do / B-52 / bombshell”), and in “Poema para lost tin-tun-teros,” an homage to drummers, Cárdenas let onomatopoeia work its own magic, without translation. The reminiscence “Me and My Cuz” easily wove together multiple voices into its own music, from “Santana blaring from the Bose” to allusions to an uncle’s advice to teenage tough chicks (“…escúchame bien, / don’t you ever let me catch you / take your change off the bar”). On both stage and page, Cárdenas’s voice is compelling for the way it is inclusive and effortless.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Help Us Decide: Bryant Park T-Shirt Edition

You may have noticed our recent debut of the Bryant Park Shop, an online marketplace where you can browse and purchase items that bring the look and feel of Bryant Park into your home and backyard. We’re currently developing a number of new products behind the scenes, but wanted to include you in the design process of the next addition to our online inventory: one-of-a-kind Bryant Park T-shirts.

Bryant Park Corporation’s Graphic Designer, Jamie Song, has been working on nine signature T-shirt designs, three of which we want to sell in the shop. Which three? Well that’s where you come in!

In the poll below you can check out the contenders (keep in mind these are preliminary renderings of the T-shirts) and vote for your favorite design. The three shirts with the most votes will move through to next stage of development where Jamie and the rest of our design team will continue to evolve and refine the designs in preparation for production.

The final three T-shirts will be available in men’s and women’s sizes and a variety of colors online in the Bryant Park Shop this fall.

Just click on your favorite image below and hit Submit to cast your vote. If you like more than one design, feel free to refresh the page and vote again! The poll will be open for two weeks.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

20 Days Left to Vote for Bryant Park's Bathrooms!

The countdown is on! There are only 20 days left to vote for Bryant Park in the 2010 America's Best Restroom competition.

We're up against 9 other restrooms across the country, but can guarantee none of them are as heavily used and well kept as our public pit stop.

Located mid-block between 5th and 6th Avenue on that busy NYC thoroughfare known as 42nd Street, it's no coincidence that tour buses from places far and wide discharge their passengers on the sidewalk right outside our restrooms!

Some highlights of the Bryant Park bathrooms include the no-touch fixtures (from the sinks to the soap to the toilet seat covers, flushes, and hand dryers, you don't have to touch a thing), attendants and operating hours (open and staffed by dedicated attendants from 7am to 11pm every day), and beautiful floral arrangements adorning the entryway and counter tops (created specially for our bathrooms and replaced before they even have a chance to wilt). Not to mention the little extras like scented oil diffusers and ambient music to complete the experience.

It's an honor to be nominated, but we want to win! 

Please click here to vote for Bryant Park as the number one best restroom in America. You can vote as many times as you'd like through August 31!

Click on each image to view a larger version in your browser

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Word for Word Poetry Blogs

We've tapped some very special guest bloggers to help us celebrate this summer's Word for Word Poetry series at Bryant Park. They provide a behind-the-scenes look at each event and divulge about the talented poets who share their work in the park. Experience Word for Word Poetry yourself every Tuesday through September 14, from 7pm to 8:30pm, at the Bryant Park Reading Room. 

Anne Lovering Rounds on Word for Word Poetry, August 3

When Paul Romero introduced the poets in Tuesday’s Word for Word Poetry lineup, he remarked that they would read in alphabetical order: Tara Betts, Marcus Jackson, and Dante Micheaux. In the context of poetry, that phrase caught my ear…alphabetical order…the arrangement of lyric language into a frame for experience. The works of these three writers conveyed everything from anger to love to amusement, and each reader was living proof of poetry’s power to distill.        

Tara Betts’s debut collection, Arc and Hue, came out in 2009 from Aquarius Press/Willow Books, and she read a number of pieces from the book before turning to new work. At the microphone, Betts was confident and sensual: she incanted her poems. Whether musing on the “fibrous gleam” of strands of hair in the love poem “Lock Maintenance,” speaking up against the national response to Hurricane Katrina (“Hurricane Kwame Offers His Two Cents”), or cataloguing the allure of the body (“Houdini didn’t have these,” as one line in “Hips” put it), her poems assert, rather than just describe. This poetry often drew attention to the pleasure of repetition, the pleasure of plain utterance: “Call me, call me, call me”; “Hey honey”; “Hey baby.” New poems included “Ode to Incense,” an evocative portrayal of what for Betts is a sign of both the familiar and the enigmatic, and the elegy “This Woman’s Bones,” a poem that becomes a protest against mediocrity, a call not to “[turn] into fallow chalk.” Challenging words, and as her reading made clear, Betts is committed to meeting that challenge through her art.

Monday, August 9, 2010

We're Always Listening

One of the most important things we can do as managers of a public space is listen to suggestions, comments, and criticisms from visitors in order to learn which aspects of the park we can improve upon.

On the flip side, one of the greatest rewards of managing a public space is when visitors take the time to send us their compliments, to let us know what we're doing right!

We are very appreciative of two such emails that arrived in the Bryant Park inbox last week, containing kind words from park patrons.

"Just taking a moment to tell you that Bryant Park is a true gem in midtown Manhattan. I’m from the New York Metro area and work in the city and the Park is a wonderful spot to go to day and night. Bryant Park makes midtown a much more pleasant place to be!"
"I just wanted to tell you that I was visiting your lovely park today around 11 am and everybody, literally every employee we made contact with was lovely, helpful, courteous and friendly.  We were by the carousel, we were by the cafe (was not opened yet, but still questions were answered with kindness), we were in the restrooms and somebody was cleaning and I was chatting with him and he was lovely.  I just want you to know that every chance I get to visit Manhattan that I come in to your park to breath in the peace and tranquility in the middle of a wonderful city and every time I come out and say BRYANT PARK IS MY FAVORITE PARK IN NYC.  Thank you for employing such wonderful people.  They all smile and greet and make me want to return and share my experience."

We pay attention to every email and letter that arrives at our door, so if you ever have a question, comment, compliment, or suggestion for Bryant Park, feel free to send it our way.

Email us at or drop a line to:
Bryant Park Corporation
1065 Avenue of the Americas
Suite 2400
New York, NY 10018

Friday, August 6, 2010

Salutation Nation, Tomorrow in the Park!

The eve of Salutation Nation is upon us! Set your alarm clock for tomorrow morning's free yoga class in the park, brought to you by our fabulous Bryant Park Yoga partner, lululemon athletica.

Matthew Lombardo and Dechen Thurman of Jivamukti Yoga NYC will lead yogis of all ages and experience levels on the Bryant Park Lawn. Mats will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so if you have your own mat, please bring it!

Salutation Nation is a special event that will occur simultaneously in over 70 cities throughout the United States and Canada to celebrate yoga communities far and wide, and elevate the connection between yogis practicing side by side outdoors.

Bring a friend, invite a stranger, and let your voice rise above the country with thousands of others in a simultaneous 'Ommm'!

Salutation Nation at Bryant Park
Saturday, August 7
9:00am – 10:00am
The Lawn

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bryant Park Pétanque Press

Pétanque, the French game of boules, is rapidly gaining popularity in New York City. The evidence is not only in the constant buzz of activity at the Bryant Park Pétanque Courts, located near 42nd Street and 6th Avenue, but in the recent media buzz surrounding the area, the game, and its dedicated players.

Flip to page 42 of the August 2, 2010 issue of The New Yorker, and you'll find a gorgeous illustration of Bryant Park Pétanque players by cartoonist Steve Brodner.

Ernesto Santos, President of La Boule New Yorkaise, the award-winning pétanque club that provides free lessons in Bryant Park, was profiled by Erasmo Guerra in the article Latinos make a pitch for French-game pétanque for the New York Daily News. Shortly after, NPR aired a story by Margot Adler about Bryant Park Pétanque on the program All Things Considered, which you can listen to right here.

Both pieces emphasize how the game of pétanque, especially when played at the Bryant Park Courts, creates a sense of community among people of all ages, nationalities, and professions.

Drop the park on weekdays from 11am to 6:30pm for a free lesson, or contact us to organize a Pétanque Party for your friends, family, or coworkers...just don't call it bocce!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Word for Word Poetry Blogs

We've tapped some very special guest bloggers to help us celebrate this summer's Word for Word Poetry series at Bryant Park. They'll provide a behind-the-scenes look at each event and divulge about the talented poets who share their work. Experience Word for Word Poetry yourself every Tuesday through September 14, from 7pm to 8:30pm, at the Bryant Park Reading Room. 

Jason Schneiderman on Word for Word Poetry, July 27

This week’s Word for Word Poetry Reading was in the Letras Latinas series, welcoming Latino authors to Bryant Park. Paul Romero welcomed the audience in Spanish and English, explaining that the readers had been selected with the help of Francisco Aragón, director of the University of Notre Dame Institute for Latino Studies. With the subject matter of the evening stretching over both of the American Continents, with specific visits to Texas, California, Argentina, and Indiana (thanks to UND), it was interesting to think about how Spanish and English exist in overlapping geographies, with Latino culture marked by Spanish, but here made visibile (audible?) in English. Of course, New York—a central node in world culture—is the perfect place for letting identity emerge without fetters or restrictions; Bryant Park’s podium was giving a stage to Latino poets bound by a common identity capacious enough to hold broad sections of humanity.
Ruth Irupé Sanabria was born in Argentina to dissident parents who were placed in Death Camps by the Pinochet government during Argentina’s “dirty war”. To her knowledge, her family is the only family to be completely re-united following the abductions. Many of the poems were about her family’s status as a cause celebre, with the Seattle Press covering her family’s reunion. A major concern of her poems was how to live with the knowledge of brutality, how to stay alive in its wake, on poems asking “or is it madness to rise again at the rim of violence.” A poem about a piñata highlighted the ways that violence is never far, even when sanitized or turned into play. My favorite line: “We didn’t know we were fragile on our way from one war to the next.” Sanabria expressed curiosity about the statue of William Earl Dodge, who stands guard over the Bryant Park Reading room. We learned that he was an advocate for Native American rights, although his successes were limited.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Lawn Access at the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival

It's hard to believe there are only four films left to be screened at this summer's HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival. Last week's presentation of Monty Python and the Holy Grail drew the largest crowd of the summer (so far), and we received some questions about the new security procedure at the event. Here is a run down of the procedure if you missed our first announcement in June:

The security procedure affects how you access the Lawn Area (the grass and surrounding gravel areas) and was implemented to protect the safety of all Film Festival attendees.

If you prefer to sit in the park's Allee's or on the Upper Terrace to watch the film, then just grab a chair and take your spot. If you prefer to sit on the Lawn or the gravel surrounding the Lawn, read on.
  • You can only access the Lawn Area from the Sixth Avenue side of the park, near the movie screen.
  • There are entry points on the north and south sides of the Fountain. Each entrance is the same.
  • If you are carrying a bag, backpack, briefcase, package, etc. and wish to sit in the Lawn Area, your items will be inspected at the security tables located at the entry points. Lines may form for those with bags and packages.
  • If you do not have any bags (or if you are only carrying a blanket), you may access the Lawn Area at either entry point without waiting in the line for those with bags or packages. 
  • Should you leave the Lawn Area, all packages, bags, etc. will be inspected again upon re-entry. If a line has formed for the entry points, you will be required to wait in line.
The entry points for the Lawn Area open at 4pm. The Lawn opens at 5pm, as usual, for blankets and picnicking (no chairs, tables, plastic tarps, or dogs on the Lawn please!).

On Film Festival evenings, look for informational signs throughout the park on where to enter the Lawn Area and listen for frequent announcements made over the sound system. If you have any questions on site, feel free to ask a park security officer or member of the Bryant Park Corporation event staff.

For more information about the Film Festival, visit