DETMOLD PARK

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New York City at times perversely secretes its more picturesque parks in places where it’s nearly impossible to find them. One of them, Peter Detmold Park, reclines along the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive between East 49th and 51st Streets at the bottom of a sheer cliff and, therefore, it’s impossible to see it from street level. The park was named for neighborhood resident Detmold (1923-1972) who after returning from World War II became president of the Turtle Bay Association. In a somewhat macabre situation, the park here was named for him after he was murdered.

Detmold Park, at its East 51st Street entrance, likely has one of the most forbidding entrances to any NYC park, a two-level steep brownstone staircase set in a very shady location. At one level it opens to an overpass crossing the FDR Drive (see below) and a second level that leads to the park itself. A gate is locked at night.

The 49th Street entrée is equally off-putting, albeit sunnier. Parkgoers are encouraged to keep the gate closed when entering and exiting, the reason being that Detmold is largely a park given to area dogwalkers and Parks is likely attempting to keep Fido from running out the gate into traffic.

Showing a parking garage on East 49th adjoining the park for no other reason than to praise their use of the underused Bodoni Bold typefont.

Getting back to the staircase for a second, it’s now illuminated by a rather prosaic cobra-loop luminaire, but till recently it boasted an elaborate fixture that probably at one time had been more common on NYC’s out-of-the-way staircases and pedestrian walks, but its ranks had dwindled to this lone representative. Alas, like the dodo it slipped out of existence as well.  bottom photo: Bob Mulero

Detmold Park itself is a pleasant oasis, quiet but for the thrum of the adjacent FDR Drive, which compromises views of Long Island City across the East River. (For those views, you’ll want to cross the overpass — and it’s unusual for a park to be bisected by a pedestrian bridge like this.) There is an active dog run directly underneath the trestle.

Just south of the park, one of NYC’s forgotten-about thoroughfares, Gen. Douglas MacArthur Plaza, connects East 48th and 49th Streets. Thecontroversial commander (1880-1964) as a general participated in World Wars I and II and the Korean War, achieving the rank of General of the Army; he served under both Presidents Roosevelt, pointed Japan on the road to democracy after helping defeat it; but was found insubordinate by Harry Truman after a dispute over the prosecution of the Korean War.

“Duty, Honor, Country” – those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn. –MacArthur

As I’ve indicated, views of Long Island City are difficult here unless you stand on a bench. In mid-2008, the Queensboro Bridge was shrouded in spots for an ongoing cleaning and paint job.

The decades-old but well-maintained pedestrian overpass leads to a riverside walk.

Some of the better views of Long Island City’s famed Pepsi sign are available from along the East River walkway. Admittedly this is a telephoto rendering and the sign will look smaller in person; the best way to see it is from a boat in the river.

And yes, there are the walkway’s davit-style walkway lamps, which have boasted classic Westinghouse AK10 luminaires, known as cuplights. Though they’ve been mostly replaced elsewhere around town by the Department of Transportation, it looks like the DOT is content to let them remain here, even fitting them with new glass bowl reflectors. One one of the posts where the bowl has fallen off we can see that incandescent bulbs still illuminate them.

Each post is numbered; the ’51′ is the cross street and the latter two digits are even numbers in a series beginning with 02. Some even numbers are skipped for reasons that escape me at present.

Photographed October 11; page completed October 22, 2008.





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