By Allan Ripp
The hordes have gone….and yes, I am sorry to see them leave, since it means the end of one of New York’s loveliest but most fleeting moments — the blooming of the cherry blossoms in Central Park.
The blossoms — properly known as sakura — have mostly faded and fallen for another year, hastened by the rains from last weekend and the brief span of their glory. While you could enjoy them in spots all around the park, the place to go for the full experience was the lush corridor along the western edge of the reservoir between 86th and 90th Streets. The canopy of trees lining that 300-yard stretch — some dating from their original 1912 planting as a gift from the Japanese government — is cherry heaven.
There were concerns that this year’s batch might open too soon, following a mild winter, with warm temperatures and boomerang freezes that thinned out the blossoms in past seasons. But somehow the spring thaw arrived at just the right time by mid-April. As always, one day the trees’ colors were in partial reveal, the next, the buds were out in full-petal display. Cue the crowds and cell phones.
The Parks Department doesn’t keep tabs on traffic, but repeat check-ins confirmed that this year’s bloom drew a robust turnout. From 7 a.m. until dusk, the corridor was maxed out with pilgrims – families, school trips, picnic goers, cyclists, commuters enjoying a detour, would-be yogis, naturalists, fashionistas, selfie takers, and lots of tourists.
Professional photographers with fancy tripods and long lenses were on hand. The trees make romantic settings for engagement pictures. A couple lifted their terrier onto a low-hanging bough to pose for a holiday card. There were outdoor art classes sketching and painting the trees. One teacher set up a mini gallery of Central Park pieces for sale with instructions for Venmo payments. I was half-expecting someone to open a blossom café, complete with pink bagels and cherry petal tea.
The blossom trail had its hazards – I saw visitors tripping over the trees’ exposed roots; a woman tore her sari on the wire fence. Sneezes arrived in bunches for those suffering spring allergies. And some sakura lovers were oblivious that the path is an active route for runners, whose elbows knocked a few phones to the dirt. But for most of those passing through the sakura zone, New York life slowed to a blossom crawl.
And then just as suddenly as it appeared, nature’s pop-up mall was over and the gang moved on, perhaps in pursuit of Flaco, the Eurasion eagle owl. A few latecomers arrived, with most of the blossoms spread out on the ground like a pink carpet. I met a family of five from Michigan who welcomed my offer to take their portrait after their attempts at a selfie fizzled. They didn’t seem to mind that so few of the flowers were left. I thought of the many thousands of photographs snapped in the past week in that small parcel of Central Park and was glad to have done my part.
When I got home, I noticed a handful of petals had fallen from my shoulders to the floor, away from the rest. Their day was done.
Allan Ripp lives on West 96th Street and runs a press relations firm in the city.