Author Archives: Leah Nadeau

The Many Sculptures of Central Park

by Garrett McMahon


There are 29 sculptures in Central Park, and each one is unique, ranging from the proud and majestic to the weird and creepy. Here’s a brief survey, courtesy of the Central Park experts at Bike and Roll, to get sightseers started, helpfully divided into four taxonomic groups:


Historical Figures on Horses


It’s a well-known fact among sculptors that guys on horses look really cool. In Central Park, these equestrian tough guys include Latin American independence leader Simon Bolivar, Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, and even President Theodore Roosevelt. For my money, the coolest is the King Jagiello Monument, located on the walkway leading to the Belvedere castle.


The statue commemorates the Medieval Polish king, Wladyslaw II Jagiello, who in the Battle of Grunwald led his people to victory against the Teutonic Knights. It’s the biggest equestrian statue in the park and easily the most impressive. The king holds up two crossed swords in defiance, symbolizing Poland and Lithuania united for a common cause.


Historical Figures Not on Horses


Since we can’t be on horses all the time, the park has ample representation for the unhorsed as well. In the Mall you’ll encounter the “literary row,” with monuments to towering figures of the written word: William Shakespeare, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott… Fitz-Greene Halleck… um, Christopher Columbus?


The statues in the park were donated by different wealthy individuals or organizations at different times, which makes for a charming lack of cohesion among them all. The best example here is Fitz-Greene Halleck, a popular author at the time, however, the official statistic of people aware of him today includes roughly 97% “people who saw his statue and googled ‘who is Fitz-Greene Halleck?’”


Many Central Park visitors are familiar with the Balto statue, commemorating the famous dog sled run in 1925 to deliver diptheria serum from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. Those visitors might be less familiar with another animal-driven statue, Eagles and Prey. Arguably the park’s strangest sculpture, it depicts a goat caught between two rocks and attacked by the titular two eagles.


The sculptor, Christophe Fratin, was the son of a taxidermist, which may explain the subject matter. According to the Parks and Recreation website, early critic Clarence Cook “…felt that Fratin’s choice of subject and ‘wild, exotic depictions’ did not fit in with ‘the tranquil rural beauty of the park scenery.’ Eagles and Prey, however, outlasted such initially squeamish sentiments.” Located near the Naumburg Bandshell, it’s still there for you decide if you agree with Mr. Cook or the Parks site.


Fictional Characters


Kids will be familiar with the Alice in Wonderland statue, commissioned in 1959 by noted Central Park philanthropist George Delacorte. If there’s a single statue on your list of things to see, however, it should be Angel of the Waters. It commemorates the construction of the Croton Aqueduct, which gave the city drinking water that was actually safe to drink. This statue was sculpted by Emma Stebbins, the first woman to create a public art piece for the city. Located at the magnificent Bethesda Terrace, itself located in the exact middle of Manhattan, the statue is the literal centerpiece of the entire park.


All these statues and many more can be found on our Inside Central Park tour. Just ask one of our helpful guides. We’ll see you there!

A Cyclists Field Guide to Biking the Bridges

by Garrett McMahon

The Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, though they share the same purpose of getting you over the East River, are as different as the two boroughs they’re named after. Being the first major suspension bridge in the city, the Brooklyn was built in an era with no heavy machinery and power tools, and after fourteen years of effort it shows, looking almost like an ancient Roman structure. The Manhattan, built around fifty years after, couldn’t look more different, with steel girders fastened together by rivets and sharp, angular shapes in its design.

Biking across these bridges is just as different an experience as their appearance. Let’s start with the Manhattan Bridge. Say you’re staying in a hotel in Manhattan but someone recommended you check out Williamsburg or DUMBO, and you want to get there with as little fuss as possible. In this case, you’ll want to take the Manhattan Bridge.

Starting out at the entrance on Canal Street, the first thing you’ll notice is how much room there is. The bridge has its own two-directional lane dedicated to biking. This where you’ll find native New Yorkers riding on, most likely people who live in Brooklyn and are either commuting to work or going back home. While there are some great views of the Brooklyn Naval Yard to take in, you’ll want to look both ways before stopping for some photos. Think of this bridge as a highway: it’s speedy and convenient to get to where you need to go, and fun as long as you’re aware that there are people behind you who think you’re going slow, no matter how fast you are!

Also, while the Manhattan Bridge is a major historical landmark in its own right, let’s just say it may not be as well-tended as its next-door neighbor the Brooklyn Bridge. You’ll find a lot of graffiti all around the bridge (some of it even in the subway tunnel right next to you!), and a lot of it quite impressive to see in its own right.

Now let’s head over to the Brooklyn Bridge. If the Manhattan is a fast and breezy highway, then biking across the Brooklyn is a quaint country road. With a lot of other people. If you plan on biking across an icon of New York City and a National Historic Landmark since 1964, let’s charitably say that you should expect to go at a leisurely pace. The fun to be had on this bridge is taking in the spectacular views of the Downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines, and admiring the bridge itself, and the amount of manpower and effort that went into the construction of this Herculean structure—so it’s a good thing you’ll have plenty of time to do it.

The two towers holding up the suspension bridge provide walkways spacious enough to get off and take some snapshots of the skylines. If you bike to the middle of the bridge, you’ll find another nice place to stop, with some benches, some space to move around (since most of the people who start to walk across don’t usually follow through and turn around halfway.)

You can see both magnificent landmarks (and their bike lanes, with all the quirks that come with them) and much more on our Bike the Brooklyn Bridge tour, which leaves daily at 2:00 pm. We’ll see you there!