The Battery (also commonly known as Battery Park) is a 25acre public park located at the southern tip of Manhattan Island in New York City facing New York Harbor. The park and surrounding area is named for the artillery batteries that were positioned there in the city's early years to protect the settlement behind them.
The Battery Conservancy, founded in 1994 by current President Warrie Price, has undertaken and funded the restoration and improvement of the once-dilapidated park. The park was renamed from "Battery Park" to "The Battery" in April 2015.
1793 rendering of the flagpole and recent plantings at the Battery
The southern shoreline of Manhattan Island had been known as "The Battery" since the 17th century when the area was part of the Dutch Settlement of New Amsterdam. At the time, an artillery battery there served to protect the seaward approaches to the town. The Battery continued its function during the colonial era, and was the center of Evacuation Day celebrations commemorating the departure of the last British troops in the United States after the American Revolutionary War. Just prior to the War of 1812, the West Battery, later renamed Castle Clinton, was erected on a small artificial offshore island nearby, to replace the earlier batteries in the area; later, when the Battery's landmass was created, it encircled and incorporated the island.
The relatively modern Battery Park was mostly created by landfill starting from 1855, resulting in a landscaped open space at the foot of the heavily developed mainland of downtown. Skyscrapers now occupy most of the original land, stopping abruptly where the park begins. On State Street, the former harbor front and the northern boundary of the park, a single Federal mansion, the James Watson House, survives as part of the Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton; until the 1820s, the city's stylish residential district was north of this house, between Broadway and the Hudson River.
By the late 19th century, several elevated railroad lines were being built to Battery Park. The New York Elevated Railroad Company opened the Battery Place elevated station at Battery Place, on the park's northern end, in 1872. This was followed by the opening of the two-track South Ferry elevated station at the park's southern end in 1877. New York Elevated Railroad agreed to beautify Battery Park as a condition of being allowed to construct the station, but the elevated station's construction soon prompted opposition among people who wanted the elevated tracks removed. A larger four-track station was built nearby in 1879, serving the Second, Third, Sixth, and Ninth Avenue Lines. In 1883, the state legislature established a committee to examine the process through which permission had been granted to construct the elevated station. The following year, New York Elevated proposed to extend the platforms of the Battery Place station over Battery Park because the platforms were too short to accommodate four-car trains. Another plan, which would have created elevated track loops over Battery Park, was rejected in 1887 as being unlawful.
While the Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel and Battery Park Underpass were under construction from 1940–52, the park was partly closed; it was later re-landscaped and expanded by 2acre. Peter Minuit Plaza was built in 1955; the East Coast Memorial was dedicated in 1963. The Battery was included within a "group of historic waterfront sites" designated Harbor Park, by the government of New York State, in 1982.
The park was known as "Battery Park" until 2015, when the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation restored the park's original, historical title of "The Battery". In August 2015, the SeaGlass Carousel opened inside the Battery.
In the park
Toward the northwestern end of the park is Castle Clinton, the often-repurposed last remnant of the defensive works which inspired the name of the park; the former fireboat station Pier A; and Hope Garden, a memorial to AIDS victims. The Battery Gardens restaurant, next to the United States Coast Guard Battery Building. Along the waterfront, Statue Cruises offers ferries to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The park is also the site of the East Coast Memorial which commemorates U.S. servicemen who died in coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean during World War II, and several other memorials.
The SeaGlass Carousel is designed to resemble an under-the-sea garden through which visitors ride on fish shimmering as though they were bioluminescent, and pays homage not only to the carousel's waterfront site, but also to Castle Clinton, which housed the New York Aquarium in the early 20th century. A 1.4acre Playscape is in the planning stages and is expected to open in 2020.
The aquarium used to be housed in Castle Clinton (image before 1923)
Castle Clinton, named for mayor DeWitt Clinton, now lies within the park. Originally called the West Battery, it was built as a fort just prior to the War of 1812. It became property of the city after the war and was renamed Castle Clinton. When leased by the city, it became a popular promenade and beer garden. Later roofed over, it became one of the premier theatrical venues in the United States and contributed greatly to the development of New York City as the theater capital of the nation.
The migration of the city's elite uptown increased concurrently with the mass European emigration of the middle 19th century. As immigrants settled the Battery, the location was less favorable to theater patrons and Castle Garden was closed. The structure was then made into the world's first immigration depot, processing millions of immigrants beginning in 1855, almost 40 years before its successor, Ellis Island, opened its doors. This period coincided with immigration waves resulting from Ireland's Great Famine and other pivotal European events. The structure then housed the New York Aquarium from 1896 to 1941, when it was threatened with destruction under transportation planner Robert Moses's plans.
Made a National Monument in 1946 and restored in 1975, Castle Clinton currently known by its original name and managed by the National Park Service. It contains a small history exhibit and occasionally hosts concerts. As the site of the ticket office for ferries to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, it recorded nearly 4.08 million visitors in 2009. According to data from the National Park Service, that made Castle Clinton the most popular National Monument.
The Sphere and eternal flame 9/11 memorial
The Sphere, Hope Garden, and flagpole
Five months after being damaged in the September 11 attacks, Fritz Koenig's The Sphere, which once stood at the center of the plaza of the World Trade Center a few blocks away, was reinstalled in a temporary location in the northern section of the park. For a while it was located near the Netherlands memorial flagpole in the northeast corner of the park, but The Sphere was moved to Liberty Park in the new World Trade Center in fall 2017. The Sphere, standing 25ft high, was meant to symbolize world peace through world trade, and was, at its original location, in the center of a ring of fountains to mimic the Masjid al-Haram, Great Mosque of Mecca; The Sphere had stood at the place in the World Trade Center where the Kaaba was in the Masjid al-Haram. After 2001, it became a World Trade Center memorial as well; a plaque alongside The Sphere reads as follows:
Within the park is Hope Garden, a memorial dedicated to AIDS victims, where The Sphere has been exhibited at times. The garden has also been used as a site for environmental demonstrations due to its fragility and status as a tourist attraction.
East Coast Memorial
A World War II war memorial, the East Coast Memorial is one of three war memorials in the United States administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission; the others are the West Coast Memorial to the Missing of World War II in San Francisco and the Honolulu Memorial. The memorial commemorates U.S. servicemen who died in coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean during the Battle of the Atlantic. A total of 4,609 names are inscribed on both sides of eight 19-foot-tall granite pylons. The pylons are arranged in two rows of four each. Between the two rows stands a bronze statue of an eagle, erected on a black granite pedestal. The eagle faces the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.
The memorial was designed by the architectural firm of Gehron & Seltzer. The eagle statue was created by Albino Manca, an Italian-born sculptor. The granite slabs were set up in October 1959, while the sculpture was installed on February 4, 1963. The memorial was dedicated by President John F. Kennedy on May 23, 1963 at a ceremony which included addresses by New York mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr., Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield, and the President. The destroyer USS Mitscher fired a salute from nearby offshore.
American Merchant Mariners' Memorial
American Merchant Mariners' Memorial
The American Merchant Mariners' Memorial sculpture, located in the Hudson River west of the park, is sited on a stone breakwater just south of Pier A and connected to the pier by a dock. It was designed by the sculptor Marisol Escobar and dedicated on October 8, 1991. The bronze sculpture depicts four merchant seamen with their sinking vessel after it had been attacked by a U-boat during World War II. One of the seamen is in the water, and is covered by the sea with each high tide. The sculpture is loosely based on a real photograph of crewmen of the SS Muskogee that was taken by the commander of an attacking submarine. All died at sea. The memorial was commissioned by the American Merchant Mariners' Memorial, Inc., chaired by AFL–CIO president Lane Kirkland.
Other memorials include the Korean War Memorial dedicated to veterans of that conflict, located just north of Castle Clinton; a statue of John Ericsson, designer and innovator of ironclad warships; the Walloon Monument, dedicated to Jessé de Forest for his contributions to the founding of New York City; a 1909 statue of Giovanni da Verrazzano, the first European to sail into New York Harbor; a World War II Coast Guard Memorial; and a monument to Veteran Wireless Operators who went down with their ships.
At least ten monuments, including the Verrazzano, Coast Guard and Wireless memorials, were stored in the park behind a temporary fence from 2004 or 2005 until 2016 as the result of a long-term renovation of Battery Park. Controversy over the statues' integrity arose in 2015 after renovations took longer than expected. Representatives of NYC Park Advocates and the Italian-American organization UNICO expressed concern about the statues' condition, although experts said there should be no long-term physical harm. The monuments have since been installed in or around the perimeter of the park, although not necessarily in their previous locations.
Around the park
The James Watson House, 1793–1806, attributed to John McComb Jr., and adjoining shrine to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton face Battery Park
To the northwest of the park lies Battery Park City, a planned community built on landfill in the 1970s and '80s, which includes Robert F. Wagner Park and the Battery Park City Promenade. Battery Park City was named after the park. Together with Hudson River Park, a system of greenspaces, bikeways, and promenades now extend up the Hudson River shoreline. A bikeway might be built through the park that will connect the Hudson River Park and East River Greenway parts of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway.
Across State Street to the northeast is Bowling Green, as well as the old U.S. Customs House, now used as a branch of the National Museum of the American Indian and the district U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Peter Minuit Plaza abuts the southeast end of the park, directly in front of the Staten Island Ferry's Whitehall Terminal at South Ferry.
Under the park
The Battery Park Control House, a landmark subway entrance at the edge of the park
CC BY-SA 4.0
The Battery, due to its key location, has played an important role in the construction of transportation infrastructure. Under the park and immediate surrounding area lies the following active infrastructure:
- The Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel, opened 1941, carrying vehicular traffic to Brooklyn.
- The Battery Park Underpass, opened 1951, carrying vehicular traffic from West Street to the FDR Drive.
- At the New York City Subway's old South Ferry station, opened 1905, the Broadway–Seventh Avenue and Lexington Avenue Lines have a balloon loop to enable trains to turn around and switch between the two IRT lines. It closed in 2009, but was temporarily placed back into operation between April 2013 and June 2017.
- The South Ferry subway station on the Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line , opened 2009, created a new free connection with the BMT Broadway Line's Whitehall Street station . The two stations comprise the South Ferry/Whitehall Street subway complex.New and Old Downtown: Wall Street and South Ferry. Forgotten NY. Retrieved June 11, 2014. The new Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line station was closed following Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, and reopened in June 2017. During that time, a passageway was built from the Broadway Line station and the old loop station.
- The Bowling Green subway station, opened 1905 and serving the, is at the northeast corner of the park. Its original entrance, or "Control House" is an official city landmark. Tracks leading south of the station go to both the old South Ferry station and to the Joralemon Street Tunnel, which skirts the park before traveling under the East River.
Discovery of wall
A piece of the old wall, used as artwork in the new South Ferry subway station
On December 8, 2005, New York City authorities announced that builders working on the new South Ferry station had found the remains of a 200-year-old stone wall. After archaeological analysis, it was widely reported to be the oldest man-made structure still in place in Manhattan. Four walls and over 250,000 individual artifacts were found in the excavation of the South Ferry subway station. A portion of one wall was placed on temporary display inside Castle Clinton. In 2009, a long portion of wall was embedded permanently into the wall of the entrance to the newly constructed station, at the same depth below street level as originally discovered.
Robert Tierney, chairman of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, said that the wall was probably built to protect the 17th- and 18th-century artillery batteries from which the park's name is derived. The city and the New York City Transit Authority plan to work together to preserve the remains, which were described as "an important remnant of the history of New York City".
In popular culture
- The 1913 silent film Traffic in Souls contains scenes filmed at the Battery.
- In Michael Wadleigh's 1981 film Wolfen, the first three murders are committed in Battery Park.
- In the 1999 Tim Burton film Sleepy Hollow, Battery Park is mentioned in the final scene with "The Bronx is up, Battery is down, and home is this way."
- In 2009, a scene in Whatever Works, directed by Woody Allen and starring Larry David and Evan Rachel Wood, was shot on a park bench in Battery Park.
- The climax of the 2010 film The Sorcerer's Apprentice happens at the park, including an animated Charging Bull.
- In the 2010 film The Sorcerer's Apprentice, starring Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel, Baruchel's younger counterpart was on a field trip to Battery Park in the beginning of the film.
- In the Jessie episode "Take The A-Train...I Think?" Emma wants to go to the multicultural state fair and Zuri wants to go to the park at Battery Park, but Jessie keeps taking them on the wrong subway trains.
- Men in Black 3 (2012), starring Will Smith, was shot in Battery Park, as well as at various other sites in New York City.
- The 2012 Glee breakup scene between Kurt and Blaine was filmed here.
- The park is featured in the first game in the Deus Ex series, wherein players can explore maintenance tunnels underneath Castle Clinton, visit its courtyard, and roam the surroundings.
- In the fifth episode of the point and click adventure game Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse, Battery Park is portrayed in a literal manner, with giant batteries inhabiting the area and acting as a power plant of sorts.
- In Grand Theft Auto IV, the neighborhood named Castle Gardens is based on Battery Park, as it has a similar location at the southern tip of Manhattan (called Algonquin in the game), borders another neighbourhood called Castle Gardens City (similar to Battery Park City), and features a recreation of City Pier A.
- Battery Park is mentioned in Cole Porter's song "I Happen to Like New York," from the musical The New Yorkers: "I like to go to Battery Park and watch those liners booming in."
- The Angus & Julia Stone song, "Santa Monica Dream," mentions Battery Park in the lyrics: "Rob's in the kitchen making pizza / Somewhere down in Battery Park."
- The park is mentioned in the Follies song "Broadway Baby", which contains the lyric, "To pierce the dark, from Battery Park, to Washington Heights".
- The Battery is featured in the famous show tune, "New York, New York" from the musical On the Town, which includes the line "... the Bronx is up and the Battery's down" referring to its southerly location.
- A Sunday In Battery Park is a song in Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus's musical Kristina från Duvemåla. A group of Swedish immigrants arrive in America, through Battery Park, and find themselves overwhelmed by all of the sophisticated New Yorkers speaking a foreign language.
- The Beastie Boys' song "Open Letter to NYC" lyric, "... from the Battery to the top of Manhattan", also refers to the entirety of the island.
- David Bowie's "New Killer Star" opens with the lines: "See the great white scar/Over Battery Park".
- Bob Seger's song "Manhattan" has the words: "He's walked all the way from Battery Park...".
- Battery Park is also mentioned in John Mayer's song "City Love", which includes the lyric, "From the Battery to the Gallery", in reference to the entirety of Manhattan Island.
- Billy Joel's Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway) contains the lyric "The boats were waiting at the Battery".