For my sixth run in the New York Harriers winter scavenger hunt, I decided to stay close to home. If I’m going to take a subway to get to the start of a run, I generally want to get out a little earlier, and I just wasn’t in a Subway Mood this day, which was yesterday.
You can read all about the origins and rules of the scavenger hunt in my first post about it; there are no real “rules” other than whichever club members want to participate complete as many clues as we can, which are things to do and see, not collect. We have three weeks and, so far, it’s been a fun way to get out and see parts of the city I’ve never or rarely seen.
WINTER SCAVENGER HUNT RUN #6
- Clues: 2
- Miles: 5.02
- Time: 53:36
- Weather: 48º, overcast
- Location: Morningside Heights – East Harlem
CLUE #15 of 25: Keith Haring’s Crack Is Wack Mural
This clue was written as:
This 1986 Keith Haring mural in Harlem was restored in 2019
I’ve lived in NYC for a collective two decades at this point, and for some reason I’ve never visited this mural. It is a bit out of the way, and to see it up close you need to cross a few busy entrances to the FDR Drive, but it was cool to finally see this in person.
I didn’t go inside the park so I took this from just outside the fence, and only this side of the mural.
I saw this park listed on maps as the “Crack Is Wack” Playground but I don’t think it occurred to me until I got there that this was its actual name and not just a cute nickname given by the map people. Apparently, the park was renamed after Haring’s death from AIDS in 1990.
Haring drew the original mural after his studio assistant became addicted to crack and had a hard time finding treatment. This is a somewhat long excerpt about the mural’s origins but I thought it was interesting so I’ll post it here, courtesy of allthatsinteresting.com:
Haring’s young, gifted studio assistant, Benny, became addicted to crack, inspiring the famed graffiti artist to paint the mural after many failed attempts from Haring’s studio to help Benny curb his addiction without insurance or hospital assistance. Haring, who often drove by an abandoned handball court in a park near Harlem River Drive, decided to use the court’s wall to display his frustrations with an ineffective government on tackling drug-related issues.
He was quoted saying he was “inspired by Benny, and appalled by what was happening in the country, but especially New York, and seeing the slow reaction (as usual) of the government to respond, I decided I had to do an anti-crack painting.”
In the summer of 1986, without any legal permission to paint a mural, Haring boldly climbed a ladder and finished the painting in one day. Surprisingly enough, he wasn’t stopped or questioned by police while he painted, and even presumed that “when you have a van, ladders, and paint, policemen don’t even consider asking whether you have any permission, they just assume you do.”
He almost got away with it – as Haring was putting the finishing touches on the mural, he was arrested. Initially facing a large fine and possible jail time, he was saved by the mural’s popularity. After it had later been painted over, the city’s parks department asked him to create a new one.
Here’s a cool article about the mural’s last restoration in 2019.
After this, I decided to head back home – I had already run 2.5 miles and I wasn’t sure how much more than 5 miles I could handle. But first, a quick stop on the way for another clue.
Clue #16 of 25: A football field, professional or not
There aren’t many football fields in Manhattan so a soccer field would do just fine – this is what Europeans call a football field, anyway! And as I am of European ancestry, it works.
Here is something cool I just learned about Thomas Jefferson Park from nycgovparks.org:
It opened on October 7, 1905 to provide organized play to the children of “Little Italy,” as the crowded tenement district in East Harlem was then known.
I had no idea that “Little Italy” was up here back then! It’s way downtown now.
Perhaps an interesting note for runners: on the outside of the “football” field is a track. As I stood there, I thought this track seemed smaller than a standard quarter-mile track. But after looking it up moments ago, I saw that the NYC Parks website lists it as a quarter mile. I thought this was strange but maybe I had misjudged.
Upon further research (because I just couldn’t let this go), according to Park Fit NYC:
While the Parks Department website claims that the track is a regulation sized .25 miles (400 meters), a Google Earth measurement indicated that this track is actually closer to 315 meters.
SO I WAS RIGHT!
Anyway, from the Football field, professional or not, I made my way back home. Running back along 110th Street was better than whichever way I had gotten there – it’s just an easier street to run on with less construction. It was also cool to see how the neighborhoods change along 110th going from 1st Avenue all the way to Amsterdam.
For my next scavenger hunt run, I shall leave the island of Manhattan…