The Berlin Wall in NYC

The Berlin Wall on 53rd Street NYC
The Berlin Wall on 53rd Street NYC

New York is the city that has it all; even the Berlin Wall. One block down from MOMA on 53rd St. is a miniature urban park with an outsized reputation. Pelay Park was used as the example of a perfect urban plaza by William Whyte in his documentary on The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces which you can watch below. While I knew about Paley, I was surprised when i turned the corner to see a concrete mass covered in graffiti and lit up like a work of art. I instantly recognized the Berlin Wall. It turns out that there are four segments of The Wall in NYC.

I knew about Pelay. On my first trip to NYC I made a point of trying to find it, but ran out of time. On my next trip I made it my first stop. In design school I was shown The William Whyte documentary The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Of all the videos, and presentations, and lectures I attended in my 5 years of interior design training - that one had the largest impact on my imagination. It wasn't so much that Pelay is a grand sight to behold; Pelay is a symbol for me - of an accomplishment. I had landed my first job in the greater NYC area at a design firm. My education had fulfilled its promise; I would now work alongside the world's greatest architects and planners - the ones I had studied about in college. Visiting Pelay Park then became transcendant for me - a symbol representing what had been an abstract study of theories, that I could now walk into and be a part of.

Then, after a Friday night visit to MOMA with a friend, we stumbled into Pelay Park. It was my second visit ... her first. We were the only ones to step in and take a seat in front of the waterfall. It was our park for the evening, and I went on explaining all of the clever design details. She was mildly impressed with the park; it was just another plaza with another fountain in Manhattan.

Pelay Park, 53rd Street near Madison Avenue
Pelay Park, 53rd Street near Madison Avenue
As we got up to leave, we noticed a concrete slab lighted as though a work of art. I immediately recognized a large segment of The Berlin Wall.

At the turn of the 20th Century, European immigrants streamed into NY Harbor past Lady Liberty, then the ultimate symbol of freedom. Today, however, fragments of The Berlin Wall act as more immediate symbols of freedom. The walls that divide people, both abstract and real, can be torn down. The wall reminds us of this.

For most adults, the bringing down of The Berlin Wall is well established in our memories. And, that is why it is such a potent symbol of freedom; for our generation perhaps more potent than The Statue of Liberty. We connect a place and a thing with a time and and emotion. And, here it is, in New York - not a flicker on our television screens - now a real thing we can touch and feel - and know is real. No longer a tool of suppression, but an emblem of hope.

There are three additional segments of The Berlin Wall in New York city: The Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum; Gateway Plaza - Financial District; The Gardens at The UN Headquarters.

Directions and Map

Click to activate map

Click Map Image to load the full interactive map.

Address for your GPS: 25 E 53rd St NYC | Coordinates: N40.760137,W073.974909 |