It's the oldest municipal playground in the United States. Seward Park is a favorite of Lower East Side residents. But it hasn’t always been easy to gain access to.
"It had high fences all around it, and only one gate was open in the last ten or twelve years, and so a lot of people couldn't even find out how to get into the park," said Amy Robinson, President of the Seward Park Conservancy.
The Parks Department hopes a nearly $6 million renovation solves that dilemma. Seward Park is the first of eight showcase projects completed through Parks without Borders, an initiative that reimagines the role of parks to make them more accessible and welcoming to everyone.
"Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, it was his idea to try and open up parks to the community, to create more of a connection visually, but to get people more involved in determining what we are going to design," said William Castro, Manhattan Borough Commissioner, NYC Parks.
All eight showcase project parks were chosen based on input from the community, Manhattan Borough Parks Commissioner William Castro says the height of fences were cut from 7 and a half to four feet, to improve sight lines.
"And believe me, it makes a difference, it's safer, people can see in, people can't hide, it just gives a more welcoming feeling," said Castro.
The park also has a new garden and lawn area, a new spot for the statue of a famous sled dog named Togo, long story, and a plaza adjacent to the Seward Park branch of the New York Public Library.
"It allows the librarians to bring children out here, now that it will be open to a little alcove, sort of a mini amphitheater, to do programming, and that's big,” said Castro.
Seward Park Conservancy President Amy Robinson says they fought hard to make this happen, and the park was nominated for the program with more than 600 votes from community members.
"The park is now going to be much more inclusive to everyone in the neighborhood even though before it was incredibly well used," said Robinson.
"Other parks that are showcases for this program include Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Jackie Robison Park here in Manhattan and Faber Park on Staten Island.