Tuesday, February 15, 2011

From the Archives: Bryant Park's Choice Seating

In this post, BPC's archivist, Anne Kumer, shares some history. This post also appears on NYC Circa, a history blog about New York City and its public spaces.

Bryant Park is known for many things, including an abundance of its iconic green chairs. Before the park had movable chairs, seating was much more limited. With only benches and a few picnic tables, people were often crowded together on the library steps, and perched on the balustrade (which is bad for the masonry).
Northwest section of Bryant Park, 1983
Afternoon lunchers clustered around one of the NYPL flagpoles, 1991

During the restoration of Bryant Park, in the late 1980s, Park management heeded the advice of Urbanist William H. Whyte, and decided to introduce movable chairs into the park in time for its planned re-opening in 1992.

As Whyte aptly wrote in his book The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces: "Chairs enlarge choice: to move into the sun, out of it, to make room for groups, move away from them. The possibility of choice is as important as the exercise of it. If you know you can move if you want to, you feel more comfortable staying put."
During the summer of 1991, most of the park was not quite yet ready for the public. However, Park management, the NYC Parks Department, and Community Board 5, agreed to a partial opening of the Fountain Terrace on July 1, 1991. To prepare, BPC (then called, Bryant Park Restoration Project) purchased 400 sturdy, white stackable chairs.
Park users enjoying the new seating on the Fountain Terrace, 1991

This trial run of movable furniture received ample positive feedback from the press, and more importantly, park users. By the time the entire park was re-opened to the public, on April 22, 1992, BPC replaced the white chairs with the now iconic, green Fermob chairs, now available for purchase in the Bryant Park Shop.  


  1. We love you guys. Living in Tudor City we just walk on over.

  2. Thanks! We love having regulars who live nearby.