The musical history of 72nd Street’s Verdi Square

These days, Verdi Square, a tiny triangle between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue north of 72nd Street, seems mainly to be a safe traffic island for pedestrians dodging the rush of cars.

Verdisquarestatue2

It’s served a few other functions over the years. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was Needle Park, populated by drug dealers and users (and memorialized in the 1971 Al Pacino flick The Panic in Needle Park).

EnricocarusoArturotoscaniniAnd in the early 1900s, it was a meeting place for musicians such as tenor Enrico Caruso (at left; he lived nearby at the Ansonia) and conductor Arturo Toscanini (right), according to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

George and Ira Gershwin also hung out there, reports DNAinfo.com.

The history of Verdi Square—acquired as a park in 1887 but not named for Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi until 1921—makes it an ideal place to listen to music. Fittingly, a series of summer concerts have been held there in recent years.

Verdisquareluminaire

Verdi Square also hides a gem from the city’s past: this 1913 luminaire once stood at 100th Street and Riverside Drive, at the Fireman’s Memorial there. It was reinstalled here and recast when the park was renovated in 2004.

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3 Responses to “The musical history of 72nd Street’s Verdi Square”

  1. Beth Says:

    The Panic in Needle Park is a great film I can only watch once. Al Pacino was so appealing as a young actor.

    I pass by that luminaire every day and appreciate it each time. It’s a lovely and I’m glad it was rescued and restored so beautifully.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    It’s a sweet piece of old New York. I never noticed it until a few weeks ago!

  3. West Side Rag » MORNING BULLETIN: DOORMEN RALLY, FARE HIKE, VERDI SQUARE HISTORY Says:

    [...] Verdi Square at 72nd street was once a hangout for musicians, including Enrico Caruso, Toscanini and the Gershwin brothers.  (Ephemeral New York) [...]

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