A shimmering stretch of green amidst the sea of concrete, asphalt, and tightly-packed buildings, Sara D. Roosevelt Park provides a refreshing respite for residents and visitors of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Named for philanthropist and Presidential mother Sara Delano Roosevelt in 1934, the park remains a vibrant common ground for senior citizens, children, and recent immigrants, as well as the more recent addition of artists and young professionals. The largest stretch of open space in the neighborhood, Sara D. Roosevelt Park caters to its wide variety of users by offering a diverse array of facilities and activities.
Highlights include the Golden Age Center for senior citizens, a recently renovated synthetic turf soccer field popular with local teens, several playgrounds for kids, a vendor’s market, and a roller-skating rink.
When this park was named in 1934 after Sara Delano Roosevelt (1854 -1941), mother of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), she held the distinction of being the only Presidential mother, after Mary Washington, to live until her son took office.
Sara Delano married James Roosevelt (1828-1900) in 1880 at her family’s home in Newburgh, New York. The couple then resided at his Springwood estate, designed by Central Park architect Calvert Vaux, in nearby Hyde Park. Her philanthropic activities included serving on the board of the Gallaudet home for the deaf, teaching sewing classes to girls and volunteering at the Laura Delano Free Hospital for Children of New York City, founded by the Roosevelt family in 1885 in memory of her sister Laura. Mrs. Roosevelt wrote about her only child’s early years in her 1933 memoir: My Boy Franklin.
The parkland was acquired by the City in 1929 for the purpose of widening Chrystie and Forsythe Streets and building low-cost housing but was later set aside for "playgrounds and resting places for mothers and children." The construction of the park in 1934 was the largest park project on the Lower East Side since the acquisition of Tompkins Square Park a century earlier. Parts of four streets were closed (Hester, Broome, Rivington, and Stanton) to accommodate seven distinct play areas with separate playgrounds for boys and girls, as well as two wading pools, a roller skating rink and a perimeter of benches and shade trees.
The dedication ceremonies on September 14, 1934 demonstrated the Lower East Side’s reverence for Mrs. Roosevelt and its jubilant reception of "America’s finest playground." A cannon salute and a performance by the Parks Department Orchestra, paying tribute to the patriotism and ethnic diversity of the largely immigrant patrons, were broadcast on radio stations from Maine to Virginia. In his opening address, Harry H. Schlacht, founder of the East Side Home News, proclaimed the day to be "the birth of a new Lower East Side."
Recent additions to the park include the Golden Age Center for senior citizens, a vendors market, and the Wah-Mei Bird Garden. Park facilities and security were greatly improved in 1996 with the completion of a 2.7 million dollar capital project which elevated the sunken park to street level and provided a new playground, basketball courts and sidewalks.
Sara D. Roosevelt Park is located in the Chinatown neighborhood of Manhattan. Concentrated below Canal Street and populated mostly by Cantonese speakers, the diversity of the new Chinatown reflects large-scale immigration from Fujian province and Taiwan, as well as an influx of Mandarin speakers from the interior provinces of China. In addition, some Vietnamese and a few Tibetans, Malaysians, and Cambodians have made this area in Lower Manhattan home in recent years. As much of what nominally was Little Italy was taken over by fruit and vegetable wholesalers, small restaurants, printing shops, and other businesses catering to the community, more apartment-building conversions and turnovers occurred. Even the stodgy restaurant supply stores and lighting showrooms on the Bowery are being transformed as change brings a fresh new face to some of lower Manhattan’s most eclectic real estate. A shopper and food lover's mecca, you can find nearly anything on Canal Street, from stereo equipment to fresh fish to jewelry to industrial art supplies. It is truly one of America’s most dizzying arrays of products available on one street. Head to one of the small bakeries for a snack, a Vietnamese restaurant for a large bowl of beef soup noodles, a large dim sum restaurant for a great variety of dishes, or a seafood place for great right-from-the-tank fish. Then enjoy some of the great flavors at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. Also visit the Museum of Chinese in the Americas, which offers fascinating exhibits that chronicle the history of this community. We've got an entire walking tour of Canal Street and Chinatown that has many more terrific highlights. You'll find terrific new hotels awaiting you in Chinatown as well, some located on the fringes of the adjacent, swankier neighborhood of SoHo. There's the well-known Holiday Inn Manhattan Downtown/SoHo on Lafayette Street just above Canal Street, the Hotel Azure just below Canal, and the Best Western Bowery Hanbee nearby on Grand Street. In addition to the explosive growth of Manhattan's Chinatown, largely thanks to the tremendous economic expansion of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, two rival Chinatowns, one in Brooklyn, the other in Queens, have emerged. You can hitch a ride out to those Chinatowns on one of the many shuttle vans that go for $1-$2 from a number of street corners near the Manhattan Bridge.
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