Making a Splash in Morningside Park


 PHOTO CREDIT: Malcolm Pinckney, NYC Parks

The Ribbon Cutting  on October 27 .

Click here to see the NYC Parks Department Press Release

The Neighborhood

Morningside Park, so named because it faces east toward the rising sun, is one of four Historic Harlem Parks and is an official city scenic landmark. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux and completed in 1895 as an extension of Central Park. The park covers almost 30 acres, stretching north from 110th Street to 123rd Street along a steep escarpment overlooked by the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Columbia University. A major attraction, the park is a refreshing green space and serves a growing population of families, children, seniors, students and professionals in a rapidly changing, multi-ethnic neighborhood.  The neighborhood also includes many new restaurants, established  businesses and institutions, and is easily accessible by public transportation.

The Need

A Neglected Urban Landscape

Improvements to Morningside Park have long been a priority of the New York City Parks Department and the neighborhood, but the department has lacked adequate funds. Funds provided by The City Gardens Club will enable the Parks Department to realize its vision for this area of the park and preserve the park’s heritage for future generations.

The Splash

The scope of the work will include reactivating the dramatic waterfall with new pumps provided by the Parks Department. Phase 1 of the work has already been accomplished. Invasive species surrounding the pond have been cleared. A paved viewing area along the soft edge of the pond is nearing completion as is a semi-circle of boulder seating to be used as an observation area for school groups to study pond ecology and biodiversity.

Extensive plantings of shade trees have begun and will create a cooling canopy over sunbaked seating areas adjacent to the pond and a distinct pond zone. Native species of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants will strengthen the natural aesthetic. To the south end of the pond, a new stand of trees will screen high-rise buildings, creating a sense of intimacy in the area. The rich plant palate will establish seasonal variety. Flowers, fruit and foliage will attract a greater number of local and migratory birds and pollinators.

Sustaining the Park

Engaging the Community

The sustainability of this project in historic Morningside Park will be assured by the stewardship of the Parks Department, as well as by the park’s administrator and horticulturalist. Engaging the community — individuals, families, businesses, local institutions and neighborhood volunteers—will be essential for the overall maintenance and improvement of the park. The hope is that The City Gardens Club initiative will inspire others to support additional gardeners and security staff for Morningside Park and to upgrade entry gardens, playgrounds, and barbecuing areas.

Partners for the Future

This public-private partnership is the capstone project for The City Gardens Club’s centennial being celebrated in 2018. Supporting horticultural and beautification programs in underserved neighborhoods has been a hallmark of the club’s mission for 100 years.  These long-awaited and much needed improvements in Morningside Park will add value to a rapidly developing neighborhood and enhance the quality of life not only for residents of Harlem but for all who visit.