With Nas’ song, “NY State of Mind,” blasting through my headphones, I stride through the open gates and down the boardwalk leading to the grounds of the Mayor’s backyard.
Bright orange sunlight is ripping through the clouds, bouncing off the gentle waves of the East River, and landing on the sleepy park that is just waking up. Birds dance and dive against this awe-inspiring backdrop, performing aerial stunts the Cirque du Soleil could only dream of.
With an imaginary music video playing out in my mind, I breath in the scene in front of me. Sitting on a bench to my right is a white-bearded man, dressed in a white linen shirt and pants, his long white hair overflowing out of his straw hat. He stares out at the East River with a ponderous look on his face, occasionally jotting down mysterious notes on the pad he holds in his hand.
A homeless man lies asleep on a bench to my left. A shopping cart sits next to him, full with the entirety of his life’s possessions. Fluorescent signs warning of fluoride in the water adorn the outside of the cart.
Suddenly a beautiful woman in full athletic gear whizzes right past me. The determined look on her face reveals she is ready to kick the day’s ass.
Up ahead, a few people are walking their dogs, others are riding their bikes, and even more are enjoying their morning coffee while reading the newspaper.
This is not the image most people conjure when they think about New York. But Carl Schurz Park is exactly the kind of hidden gem New Yorkers flock to when they want a break from the concrete jungle.
I take one last deep breath before I turn to walk back through the open gates, back into the city I call home. Nas’ voice comes exploding into my brain as the song nears its end, “Nothing’s equivalent, to the New York state of mind … New York state of mind.”
By Michael Halpern