Henry Hudson Park

The Daily Plant : Friday, September 19, 2003


Photo by Malcolm Pinckney

The sun was shining in Riverdale on Wednesday afternoon as nearly a hundred community members and friends gathered to cheer on one of the city's greatest park volunteers. Paul Cymerman, 82, has been looking after Henry Hudson Park's Playground for the past 17 years. In recognition of his dedication, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe led a special ceremony at which the green space was renamed "Paul's Park" in his honor.

"It's not every day that you rename a playground," began Commissioner Benepe. "This is an honor that very few people in New York have earned. Parks are not normally named for living people." He added, "Mr. Cymerman's vigilance has transformed this place and made it a place where parents want to bring their children. He is the ideal Park Steward, and his work is an example of the way that one individual can change an entire community."

Mr. Cymerman, 82, has been a fixture at the Henry Hudson Park playground for the past 17 years, opening the park every morning and locking it every night. For years, neighborhood families and residents have unofficially called the green space "Paul's Park" as a result of his dedicated efforts to keep the park clean and safe. Paul's Park boasts one of the last sandboxes in a city playground. Another unique feature of the playground is the wealth of play toys, which were donated by the community and are safeguarded by Mr. Cymerman.

"He's one of those people who, when the flame gets a little low, rekindles it in you," said Manhattan Parks & Recreation Commissioner William Castro, who became close with Paul while serving as Bronx Commissioner.

"There are 185 playgrounds in the Bronx but there's only one of them with a dedicated volunteer like Paul," said Bronx Parks & Recreation Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski.

"My father is a different kind of person, a very strong person," said Sara Reagan, who also attended the ceremony. Mr. Cymerman and his wife, Ana (May 14, 1923 - August 11, 2003) were both survivors of the Holocaust. The two met at Bergen-Belsen in Germany after they were liberated from different concentration camps. Sara, their first child, was born there before the family emigrated to the Bronx. The two lived in Riverdale for decades and were married for 57 years.

Ana Cymerman was also a fixture in the park and always supported her husband's love of the park, according to Mr. Cymerman. At the service, he recalled the story of Hercules, who was sent on a mission to find a blue rose. "I always had my blue rose," he said, referring to his wife. "There are plenty of other roses-red roses, pink roses, white roses." But he always had his blue rose, he said. In memory of Mrs. Cymerman, Parks & Recreation planted a tulip tree (Oiriodendron Tulipifera). The tree will grow tall overlooking the park.

Throughout the ceremony, every speaker mentioned Mr. Cymerman's passioned enforcement of the playground's rules. And everyone agreed that without that enforcement, the park would not be the treasure that it is. "If you don't like [the rules] in my park, you go back to your dirty park," said Mr. Cymerman.

Mr. Cymerman's dedication is unfaltering. Ms. Reagan noted that on Thursday she and her father went to the park to protect the toys in the area from the approaching storm. "He was very concerned about them," she said.


On Sunday, September 21, his Holiness the Dalai Lama will give a free talk in Central Park. The Dalai Lama will speak on compassion, practices that encourage a peaceful mind, and positive ways to live during difficult times. The event is free and open to the public. It will take place on Central Park's East Meadow at 12:00 p.m. The public should enter the Park at East 90th Street and 5th Avenue beginning at 10:00 a.m.


"Whoever is happy will make others happy too. He who has courage and faith will never perish in misery."

Anne Frank


Directions to Henry Hudson Park

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