Welcome to Issue #14 of CAFÉ ANNE!
Is there anything better than sitting on a park bench? Well, yes! Sitting on a park bench that has your name on it. Many parks have a fund-raising program that lets you dedicate a bench with a little inscribed plaque. While shopping around recently, I was delighted to find a $100,000 bench-naming opportunity in Manhattan’s Hudson River Park. In Kenai, Alaska, meanwhile, bench dedications start at $450. Please enjoy this week’s feature, below.
In other news, back in Issue #5, I wrote about the Naked Cowboy’s bonkers morning routine that keeps him performing in Times Square, no matter what’s going on in the world. He never takes a day off! Yesterday he texted me this 25-second video of him performing in Saturday’s mini-blizzard.
“The first snow storm. I couldn’t wait. Get her done!” he says.
Finally, I’m working on a design for a new NYC logo, as mentioned in last week’s issue, and still looking for readers to submit designs of their own, which I will forward to the mayor. Please send your graphic by end of the day Friday: firstname.lastname@example.org.
IN THIS WEEK’S ISSUE
• Weird Trash Heaps #10 & #11
• Items of Interest
• Feature: The $100,000 Park Bench
Weird Trash Heaps #10 & #11
Okay, neither of these constitutes a weird trash heap. It’s just weird trash.
Colleen F. in Queens came across the following curbside find last month. “It was just outside our house, on 42nd Street and 43rd Avenue in Sunnyside,” she wrote. “It was glorious!”
And next we have this Dalíesque find from Veronica Fischmann in Park Slope, Brooklyn who sent a snapshot of what she deems an “engaging pile of trash.”
“The location makes it even more odd,” she writes. “I found it on 5th Avenue in the northern, Barclays-adjacent sports-bar-and-restaurant part of Park Slope…A busy area for a giant clock face to be casually leaning against a tree. Maybe whoever left it there was subconsciously mimicking the clocktower nearby? I have no idea what that other colorful item is, but I truly wish I knew.”
Thank you Colleen and Veronica!
Please send your weird trash heap photo to email@example.com and I will include it in a future issue.
Items of Interest
The $100,000 Park Bench
There are a few things that make this bench, found in Manhattan’s Hudson River Park, worth a second look:
It looks like a caterpillar! (in a good way)
It has a title: the “Spirit Song” bench
For $100,000, you can put your name on it.
I’ve been looking around, and if you want to spend a lot of money to dedicate a park bench to yourself or a loved one, this is it—the most you can possibly spend.
There are actually six “Spirit Song” benches in the park, all available for a 20-year dedication term. No one’s pounced on the offer yet, says Toby Pearce, Chief Development Officer at Hudson River Park Friends, which oversees fundraising efforts for the three-mile green space running up Manhattan’s West Side. But two donors have spent $25,000 to dedicate one of 35 available “Family Playground” benches on Tribeca’s Pier 25, three have adopted a $25,000 “Secluded Boardwalk Bench,” and 55 spent $5,000 to adopt one of the 300 classic “World’s Fair” benches located throughout the park.
Mr. Pearce said these bench dedications support park maintenance and operations, and prices are based on based “on the uniqueness of the bench and limited quantities.”
He is working on a new dog run dedication program, by the way, “for those that love their four-legged friends!”
So what do you get for your $100,000 donation? You know what they say about real estate: location, location, location. Last week I went out to Pier 84, where the Spirit Song benches are located. Oddly, I couldn’t find them. A couple of park patrol officers on the scene suggested the benches might be in storage for the winter. I told them about the $100k naming opportunity.
“Is that all?” said one.
“I’ve got that in the bank!” said the other.
We laughed and laughed.
Pier 84, which juts into the Hudson River at the foot of 44th Street, would make a great home. It has its own bathrooms, a dog run, a boat house and fabulous views of New Jersey. In case of war, it’s right next door to the USS Intrepid, the massive aircraft carrier docked at Pier 86.
There are more modestly priced bench dedication opportunities available in New York City, of course. The private, nonprofit Central Park Conservancy charges $10,000 to “endow” one of the park’s 10,000 benches. So far, 7,000 have been adopted. Do the math! That’s $70 million raised from park bench memorials.
The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, which has its own Adopt-a-Bench program for many of the city’s lesser-known green spaces, meanwhile, says it has a pricing schedule based on how much traffic a park gets. A bench adoption in a “D” park—typically an outer-borough green space which doesn’t get many visitors—costs $1,500. A bench in high-traffic space such as Union Square, which is considered a “B” level park, costs $2,500. You can’t adopt a bench in an “A” level park, because there is only one in the city—Father Duffy Square in Times Square—and it has no benches.
I asked about the cost of dedicating a bench on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which is two blocks from my home and has fantastic views of the Manhattan skyline. I’d call it a steal at $2,500.
I also emailed my little brother to ask how much it might cost to put a plaque on the bench he has on the front patio of his home in Queens. His reply:
“I would say an endowment in the form of an annuity with a benefit of 2-3000 dollars would be great, we could really upgrade our garden. What’s that, like a 100 grand lump sum? So anywhere 10-100000 dollars. We are not kidding around with our bench.”
You can get betters deals outside the big city, of course. Typically, the smaller the town, the lower the price. Please enjoy this handy chart I made for you!
I was excited to find what sounded like an amazing deal in Clear Lake, Iowa, population 7,687. According to the town’s website, you can adopt a six-foot “Malibu” bench for $450, “and optional arm rests can be added for an additional amount.”
Zowie! I got on the phone with parks superintendent Jim Jackson, who kindly described some of the available locations.
One option, the asphalt ORC Trail:
“It meanders through soccer fields and an overflow creek that drains out of Clear Lake,” he said. “It’s a beautiful, wide-open, grassy area where they play soccer and have flag football. I walk out there when the weather’s nice.”
Another option, Armour Pugh Memorial Park, an older green space off Highway 18: ”It’s beautifully mowed and maintained,” said Mr. Jackson. ‘There’s trash service every day.”
Alas, he was pretty sure the price had gone up since the deal was originally posted, a fact confirmed by city Finance Officer Creighton Schmidt. “The last few we did were $1,275,” he said.
Inflation, you know. Plus, they are now offering a better quality bench.
If you’re interested, however, please prepare for a wait. “The last I heard was six months because of supply chain issues,” said Mr. Schmidt.
While I couldn’t get this confirmed, there does seem to be a great deal still available in Kenai, Alaska, a coastal city southwest of Anchorage.
Here, an “attractive new bench made with expanded metal and coated with rubber,” can be dedicated for $450—a price which, as far I can tell, includes arms.
Kenai may be a long distance from most CAFÉ ANNE readers, but with 7,400 residents, it is the seventh-biggest city in the state. Plus, eight of the ten largest king salmons caught in the world were pulled from the nearby Kenai River, including a world-record 97 pounder. So you’ll want to visit your bench often. You can adopt one now by downloading and completing this application.
Until I get more paying subscribers, I’m afraid even $450 is too much for my budget. But get this: for $150, one can dedicate a LAWN CHAIR in Manhattan’s Bryant Park which is, as we all know, the greatest green space in the world because it has the most coffee and the most people.
I have a big birthday coming up, so I just bought myself a seat. The bronze plaque will say CAFÉ ANNE, of course. When the chair is ready, in about a month, they’ll let me come and place it anywhere in the park I want. So excited! I’ll keep you posted.