Inside the gates of Gramercy Park with Claire

     Gramercy Park is not exactly the most happening place in the city—if you want excitement, the park pales in comparison to Times Square, for shopping Soho can’t be beat—but I could honestly say that it’s one of the most tranquil places in Manhattan. In fact, it’s almost oppressively tranquil: all the street traffic fades away as you approach the tiny little fenced in area, leaving you in a state of relative silence and solitude, stripping away the comfortable crowds of the rest of the city. The type of people noticeably changes as you get close to the park, as well. Gone are the more eccentric city dwellers, the hipsters and the rowdy school kids, and instead you are faced with a pastel army of J. Crew sporting, dog-walking thirtysomethings. Most don’t even go into the park—they seem content just walking in circles around it, ambling slowly along with their Labradors and strollers.
    The park itself is certainly worth seeing: the lawns are as well-manicured as a golf course, the flowers are impeccably attended and in full bloom, children in fairy costumes run around laughing as their parents watch from the gleaming benches. Of course, you have to observe this all through the heavy wrought-iron gates, as Gramercy Park is a private park and you need a key to get in. Seeing the park, it is understandable how additional private parks would be an impossibility. New Yorkers flock to the open green spaces, to Central Park and Washington Square; parks have established a reputation of being democratic spaces in which anyone and everyone is welcome. All of which leads to a very vibrant park culture that inspires improptu concerts and chess games. Imagine if you put a gate around Washington Square Park—first, the people would probably revolt, and second, all of the characters that make the park a fun place to go would be gone! Which explains the heavy tranquility of the Gramercy Park area.
    Being a swanky neighborhood does draw some interesting (famous!) types to the area, however. The main example of this is the Gramercy Park Hotel, which was the site of the launch party for Sienna Miller’s new clothing line, and where Lindsay Lohan and the Olsens have been known to party. It wasn’t always such a hot spot, however. Historically, it was frequented by the likes of Humphrey Bogart and John F. Kennedy Jr. (he lived there when he was 11), but the clientele was more old ladies and tourists until recently. In 2005, the hotel underwent a complete makeover, in which Ian Schraeger, a sort of playboy hotel wunderkind, gutted the entire building. In place of the dowdy bar and tattered furniture he put unique, boutique-style chairs and famous modern art. As you walk in, you are confronted with Warhols and Picassos (real ones!)—and that’s just the lobby! Of course, you are also confronted with a fleet of curious looking hotel personnel, so you may be tempted to leave immediately instead of giving the lobby the thorough inspection it deserves.   
    Overall, Gramercy Park is an unbeatable spot to visit if you are craving a respite from the noise and motion of the city. And, if the silence proves too much for you, the typical bustle of the city is only a couple of blocks away. 

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