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Allison Rockefeller

Allison Rockefeller

Posted: July 11, 2009 06:55 PM

Riverbank Park: A New York Oasis


New York is a land (literally!) of extreme proportions, huge and small. Look at New York State's parkland for example, no exceptions here. Second to Alaska, New York is home to the largest park in the United States, the six million-acre grandmother of all early (1892) open space, New York's awe-inspiring Adirondack Park. It's mind-boggling to imagine that five of the largest National Parks in the United States could slip comfortably within the Adirondack Park boundaries, pull up the covers, and go off to sleep.

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Imagine a vast area the size of Yellowstone, Everglades, Yosemite, Great Smokey Mountains and Grand Canyon combined residing as parkland in upstate New York. No need to imagine, it's there. 3,000 lakes, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, a magnificent mountain range... sounds like an "I Love New York" commercial? You bet it is.

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The interesting thing is that 90 million Americans are within a day's drive of the Adirondacks but fewer than 100,000 New Yorkers actually live there.

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And now for the microscopic: back to where the math gets crazy again for New York proportion, particularly ratio, but the other way 'round...you know, ratio of teachers to students, land per-head of cattle, one kind fruit vs. another, that kind of thing.

Look at the remarkable case of Riverbank State Park, built smack on the Hudson River at 145th Street.

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Constructed in 1988 atop an immense water treatment facility, Riverbank owes its existence to the design-gives-birth-to -necessity school of engineering of which Benjamin Franklin would be proud. Certainly, Franklin would have been first at the table with blueprints.

In 1988 a man-made park like Riverbank was unusual in America, really before its time; while Japan-- our greatest rival in space obsession and engineering problem solving -- had several. Today we have finally entered the era of green roofs, urban farming, and a park on the High Line! - where man-made and nature, though first dating, are beginning to walk hand-in-hand.

Be warned about Riverbank: picnic at your own risk. The Park's view is so staggering you're apt to drop your tuna fish sandwich in your cold Frappuccino as the George Washington Bridge straddles the river and the famed Hudson River Palisades hang majestically above the glistening water.

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Alright, cattlemen and cows, teachers and students, apples and oranges, this math may be just as staggering: 28 to 2,000,000!...Yup, Riverbank offers up its 28 acres to 2,000,000 people annually, making it the third most visited park in New York's vast State Park system (just behind Niagara and Jones beach) 71,428 people per acre! (Of course not all come at the same time)

But Riverbank, this excellent math lesson of a park, this engineering marvel, is a gracious and an expert host -- absorbing its vast yearly visitors comfortably at two swimming pools, football, soccer, baseball fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, amphitheatre, gymnasiums, skating rink, a cultural center, and community garden.

2,000,000 on 28 acres?... It's New York's version of new math; math class outside. Go figure? Go visit. It's a problem you'll enjoy solving.

Riverbank is run by New York State Parks.