New York City’s Secret Places of Silence
Central Synagogue on Lexington Avenue (all photos courtesy Frances Lincoln Publishers)
Subways rumbling beneath the pavement and blaring their horns, taxis zooming down the avenues, pounding construction constantly morphing the skyline taller every year, the sounds of over eight million people moving through the streets and sidewalks — New York City is not a quiet place. People live close in clustered apartments and crowd into transportation for the daily commute. Sometimes you need an escape.
Quiet New York by Siobhan Wall, released this month by Frances Lincoln Publishers, is a guide to finding some peace in the frenetic cityscape. With 150 places across the five boroughs, ranging from restaurants, to museums, to houses of worship, to hidden parks, the book aims to show what other guidebooks do not in providing an escape from one of the busiest cities in the world. Wall has previously published quiet guides to London, Amsterdam, and Paris, but New York may be the greatest challenge yet with its density of population and sleepless nature.
New York Insight Meditation Center
New York Marble Cemetery
The recommendations in the compact, square-shaped book include the overlooked Hispanic Society of America up at Audubon Terrace with its gorgeous Spanish art collection, Buddhist shrines, the Nicholas Roerich Museum near Columbia University that houses the art of the Russian painter who inspired H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, and the George Way Collection on Staten Island cluttered with 17th century objects. Then there are ponderous spaces like the Poets House in Lower Manhattan dedicated to the art of verse, and zen zones such as the New York Insight Meditation Center in an industrial building on 10th Street that offers daylong retreats into internal awareness.
And of course, there are the parks. Even though Central Park certainly has its share of hidden corners, it’s not the only greenspace you can escape to, with 19th century burial grounds like New York Marble Cemetery and “pocket parks” like Greenacre with its waterfall that drowns out the urban noise. “The city is full of surprises — in particular the many beautiful, hilly parks, with their secret meadows and unexpected vistas,” Wall writes in her book introduction, citing Fort Tryon Park that feels like a world away with its view to the Cloisters built from medieval abbeys and the High Line that has repurposed an abandoned train line into a vertical garden.
George Way Collection
At Atlas Obscura, we appreciate a city view that takes in all its wonders, both gargantuan monuments and more clandestine oases. (Our favorite NYC quiet zones include the wax saint shrine to Mother Cabrini in Washington Heights, the Museum housed in a freight elevator, and Walter de Maria’s Earth Room that fills a Soho apartment with dirt.) Quiet New York is a great resource to find some spots of stillness in the constant movement of NYC, but everyone should also spend time getting lost in the grid to find their own places to stake for some solitude.
Quiet New York by Siobhan Wall is available from Frances Lincoln Publishers.
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