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What is Bryant Park?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 August 2017
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Bryant Park is a public park located in Manhattan, just one block away from Times Square in New York. The park is officially a part of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. However, a nonprofit company manages the park. It is called the Bryant Park Corporation.

Bryant Park has been around since 1686. In that year, Thomas Dongan, the governor of the colony that eventually became the state of New York, set the land aside for the public. Over the years, the land had a variety of uses. For example, colonial troops moved through the area in 1776 as they retreated during the Battle of Long Island. From the early 1820s until 1840, the land was used as a graveyard for poor people.

It wasn't until 1847 that the first actual park opened on the land. It was called Reservoir Square. Later, the land that makes up Bryant Park continued to make history. For example, Reservoir Square was used during the Civil War as a place to perform military training.

The name "Reservoir Square" was changed to "Bryant Park" in 1884. It was named for a newspaper editor and abolitionist named William Cullen Bryant. Fifteen years later, workers began to erect the New York Public Library building on the land. The library replaced the old reservoir building.

Unfortunately, the Park suffered from some problems over the years, and it became a home for people of ill repute, such as drug dealers and prostitutes. Eventually, it was given the nickname "Needle Park" due to the prevalence of heroin use and selling in the area. In the late '70s and early '80s, however, improvements and additions to the park, such as a flower market and caf├ęs, rejuvenated the park and helped to rid it of its poor reputation. These efforts were initiated by a group dedicated to advocating for parks and were eventually continued by some interested New York residents.

Today, the park is much different and is said to be virtually free of crime. It is a frequent destination of both residents and visitors. It is said that thousands of people visit the park on a daily basis. It now includes a carousel, an open-air library, the Bryant Park Grill, boutiques and a full range of shops and eateries. It also provides WiFi access for those who visit the park; this is offered completely free of charge.

The park also offers ample opportunities for entertainment. For example, it offers musical performances when warm weather makes them optimal. Visitors can also enjoy such things as chess lessons and opportunities to play games. Classes are offered for such things as yoga and knitting. For those who like to ice skate, Bryant Park even includes an ice skating rink that offers free admission.

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