February 04, 2016

FINDING SOLACE IN NEW YORK CITY

Words + Photos : Regina Mogilevskaya

Escaping the hustle in New York City

I barely hesitated when I made the decision to move to New York. After all, I had spent my childhood in Brooklyn, my college years in Boston, and all the time in between in a small town in Northern New Jersey, from which the city was only a short bus ride away. Though never permanent, New York had always been my home, always a place where alleyways elicited the same wonderment in me as the arches and gardens, a place of endless exploration, trailing where the light fell.

Little did I know, living your day-to-day life in one of the busiest cities in the world is not nearly as magical as one might think. In fact, it’s rather complex. Every normal routine, whether you’re going to get groceries or taking a yoga class or just trying to get to work, somehow becomes a momentous excursion. Lines wrap around every aisle, you get caught in the subway doors because you’re essentially flinging yourself into a car that neither wants you nor has room for you, and when you lay your head down on the yoga mat after a long day, you suddenly realize that a very hairy stranger, and his abundance of sweat, is about two inches away from you. Sometimes it is hard to breathe here – nothing is ever quite the volume or pace or the texture you’d like it to be.

That’s exactly why, over the past few years, I’ve made it a goal to discover pockets of oasis across the city, not just dimly lit coffee shops with comfortable seating and candles for ambiance, but concealed places with enough green and water and air not riddled with car exhaust to make you feel like a person again. Places that didn’t feel like New York. After all, it’s not like you can always throw caution to the wind, purchase a ticket, and be on the first plane west. You should be able to find some sort of peace within your surroundings, and you usually can if you’re patient enough to look.

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Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s biggest green space, a 585-acre sprawl of land that boasts pastoral meadows, recreational fields, hiking and running paths, a zoo, and even a forest. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed the park with his partner Calvert Vaux in the late 1800’s, their influences ranging from the Adirondack Mountains to pastoral scenery in England. Similar to the plight of many New Yorkers today, the duo hoped to be able to transport visitors to the park to a different place, and they did this by planting an abundance of trees to cover up any views of surrounding buildings, and incorporating manmade ponds, streams, and lakes that trickle through out the park.

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On a rather warm Sunday afternoon in January I headed into the heart of Prospect Park – the Ravine, a narrow gorge complete with waterfalls. Unfortunately, due to the season everything was rather dry and drab, so I followed the water and ended up at the Boathouse on the Lullwater. In addition to being able to admire the texture and color of a few wildflowers growing against the grey sky, I also stumbled upon the Camperdown tree, a weeping elm from the estate of the Earl of Camperdown in Scotland, planted here in 1872. The elm has gone through years of careful restoration and today it grows cocked and crooked, but proud. Though its gnarled branches were bare, there was still a sense of majesty about it, a sort of mysticism that draws visitors towards its gates.

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I walked further towards the outskirts of the park and ended up on the southeast side of Prospect Lake. Stepping out from the canopy of trees I’ve been walking under, the long stretch of water made the park feel more expansive than ever. I don’t know what it is, but something about proximity to water has always been incredibly important to me. There’s something about waters ability to soothe over the soul; you can stare at one ripple and see it change course countless of times in just a few minutes. I loved trailing the shores of the lake, fingering elms and ferns and wildflowers browned by the cold.

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Central Park

Just a few days later, the very first snow fell in New York, and something pulled me towards Central Park, but towards an area away from the tourists. I entered at 101st street and was glad to immediately see a sizeable pond ahead, its hilly edges already frosted by the snow. A large tree had tumbled into the water and I spent what felt like an hour watching its numerous branches extend into the water and touches noses with their reflections, swimming in clouds. The sun was starting to set so I followed the trail up ahead, where I found an unlikely sight; I stood at the top of three cascading waterfalls that tumbled into a stream under a stone arch. The whole scene seemed to come out of nowhere

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I later learned that I was once again in the territory of Frederick Law and Calvert Vaux, who designed Central Park in addition to Prospect Park. Walking down the steps adjacent to the waterfalls, I found myself in what’s known as the Loch area, in the North Woods of Central Park. There wasn’t a building in sight, and the only sound was that of water over the rocks and the occasional crunch of leaves when a jogger ran past. Surrounded by oaks and maples, I could only imagine the breathtaking tranquility of this place when everything bloomed. I can’t wait to return in warmer weather.

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 Transmitter Park, Greenpoint, Brooklyn

One week later, New York was hit with the second biggest blizzard in its history. Once it was safe to venture outside, rather than hit the streets and major parks, I retreated to my very favorite place to watch the sunset (which is also my favorite time of day to shoot, in case you hadn’t yet noticed). Transmitter Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn is a bit of an oddity. It’s a small green space (only 1.6 acres) sandwiched between a cluster of factories and warehouses. The view, however, is hard to beat. The park rests on the edge of the East River, the Manhattan skyline splayed out in its full glory across the way, and a pitter patter of bridges to the left, the Williamsburg Bridge most full in view. My favorite part about the park is the recreational pier that seems to lead you straight in the mouth of the river, but goes nowhere. Often times I have the very end of the pier to myself, and it’s a perfect place to watch the sun sink further and further behind One World Trade. A lot of the time, all you can hear is the wind.

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