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City Hall Park

The Daily Plant : Monday, December 16, 2002


One of the coldest nights of the year so far did not stop the holiday cheer at City Hall Park on December 3. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) Commissioner William Bell joined students from PS 1 and PS 217 and teens from ACS’ Mentoring Program to light the City Hall holiday tree. This tradition began on December 24, 1913, when then acting Mayor Ardolph Kline invited a young boy to help him light the first holiday tree at City Hall. This year’s celebration paid tribute to the spirit of Lower Manhattan and following the lighting of the City’s tree, the holiday revelers were shuttled by trolley to shop and dine at The Battery, South Street Seaport and the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center.

"Winter is a season filled with exciting activities and time-honored traditions, and the lighting of the holiday tree in City Hall Park is one of them," said Mayor Bloomberg. "This year there is a renewed energy downtown as we continue to rebuild our City and revitalize its spirit. Happy holidays to you and yours."

Parks & Recreation provided a spectacular new centerpiece for the holiday celebration using the City Hall Park Fountain. Deputy Commissioner for Operations Liam Kavanagh proposed the idea to bring life to the empty granite fountain in the cold months by filling it with a festive display of plantings. Parks’ Landscape Architect Gail Wittwer-Laird, Manhattan Forestry Director William Steyer, City Hall Park Gardener Richard Haughland and others worked collaboratively to create the holiday arrangement, which consists of tiers of balsam firs, crabapple trees, boxwood, and winterberry and evergreen holly. The trees were adorned with hand-made ornaments made by students from PS 1, PS 42 and PS 217. Parks will change the display after the holidays but plantings will remain in the fountain until April when the water is turned on again. All of the plantings will be replanted in parks throughout the five boroughs.

Though The Daily Plant is usually the first to bring you Parks news, The New York Times featured the genius of Commissioner Kavanagh. Reporter Jennifer Steinhauer wrote, "It is a horticultural pleasure that even a city in a fiscal crisis can enjoy." She also noted Commissioner Benepe’s enthusiasm for the project’s success and his commitment to do the same in each of the city’s four borough hall fountains next winter.

During the tree lighting ceremony, attendees sipped hot chocolate to keep warm and ate donuts (unfortunately frozen from the frigid temperature), while the New York City Housing Authority Youth Choir provided musical entertainment and the New York Goofs thrilled the crowd with their antics and comedic tricks. Afterwards, Parks’ "Broadway Shooting Stars" trolleys transported everyone to three Lower Manhattan locations to shop and dine. Many joined the festivities at The Battery, where a holiday tree lighting occurred simultaneously with City Hall’s, and was followed by carolers that entertained the crowd.

City Hall Park has played a key role in New York for centuries from its Colonial beginnings as a rebel outpost to its current function as the seat of City government. In 1999 a $39.2 million project fully restored the park, adding a central walkway and gardens and replacing pavement with grass and trees. The fountain, designed by Jacob Wrey Mould in 1871, was returned to the park with a reconstructed centerpiece and lighting fixtures and a circular tablet at the southern end of the park was added to educate visitors about the history of the site.

"The fountain project is not only a treat for everyone who visits City Hall Park, it gives our very talented gardening staff a chance to show off their talents."

Written by Megan Sheekey


"It is always incomprehensible to a man that a woman

should ever refuse an offer of marriage."

Jane Austen

(December 16, 1775-1817)

Directions to City Hall Park

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