Yikes. I’ve given you too many downer stories in a row*. Okay, here’s a good one, and, like all good stories, it involves ice cream. I was Traveling at the Speed of Bike on the Lower East Side of Manhattan on a windy, chilly spring day this week that suddenly turned warm. Cherry blossoms and daffodils were blooming, and children were coming home from school by foot and bike and scooter. I fell upon a Mr. Softee truck (like when I was a kid!) with local Dominican immigrants lined up to patronize it and I joined them to buy what may be considered the best ice cream cone of my life — just the right size (not too big), just the right price (a shockingly affordable $1.50), on just the right day (glorious), in just the right location.
While happily eating my ice cream, I strolled though the park that was right there and found it bustling with life. Old men on park benches chatting. Children playing. Moms and dads pushing strollers. Elderly women in wheelchairs singing along to Latin American music on the radio. And a vibe so inclusive and positive that I even felt comfortable using the ancient public bathroom.
I researched this park, named Seward, when I got home and discovered it was built on a condemned piece of property in 1897 as part of an effort by people involved in immigrant settlement houses to give kids a safe place to play off the streets. The playground went on to become the first permanent municipally-built playground in the United States! It was heartening to see this special public space was still providing such a valuable community service.
Let’s not think twice about the hipster street-art benches in the corner plaza or the art exhibit paying homage to a bodega, foreboding a day they no longer exist, okay? Let’s just allow this sweet park to be frozen in time, along with my childhood Mr. Softee memories, for just a day or two longer.