When it comes to the holidays in NYC, nearly everyone knows about Rockefeller Center (profiled last month). Another fantastic place to get into the spirit is Bryant Park, which during the holiday season is restyled as a winter village complete with open-air market, Christmas tree, seasonal food vendors and ice skating rink. Bryant Park is located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and 40th and 42nd Streets.
Bryant Park is an urban renewal success story. The park's history dates all the way back to the late 17th century when the area was first designated a public space by New York's colonial governor. It served many different functions, including as a graveyard, a public square, and a military staging area during the Civil War. In 1884, the area was renamed Bryant Park to honor civic reformer William Cullen Bryant, the longtime editor of the New York Evening Post. The Beaux-Arts New York Public Library building, which flanks the park's eastern border, was completed in 1911, and in 1934 Bryant Park was redesigned under NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses.
By the 1970s, however, Bryant Park had fallen into disrepair and become associated with drug use. Efforts to revitalize the park led to the creation in 1980 of the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation (BPRC), a public-private partnership financed in part by members of the Rockefeller family. Bryant Park was closed to the public from 1988 until 1992 as BPRC undertook a massive renovation effort, which included lowering the park to nearly street level and constructing restaurant pavilions and concession kiosks. The results of this renovation have been impressive as daily attendance now often exceeds 800 people per acre, making Bryant Park the most densely occupied park in the world. According to one study, the buildings on Bryant Park's perimeter command office rents 12.5% higher than similar buildings within a few blocks, which translates into property values 20% to 25% higher on average and at least an additional $33 million annually in real estate tax revenue for the city.
A view of the park in warmer weather facing West.