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.
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).
And 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.
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.
Tags: 72nd Street scene, Arturo Toscanini, Enrico Caruso in New York City, George and Ira Gershwin NYC, Giuseppe Verdi, Needle Park Upper West Side, Panic In Needle Park, Upper West Side parks, Verdi Square, Where Was Needle Park