drooping and decayed is here." But it was in the 1890's, when plans for the construction of a park were already underway, that the area's notoriety achieved new heights. Danish newspaperman Jacob Riis devoted an entire chapter of his epic How the Other Half Lives to "The Bend," detailing the "foul core of New York's slums." He likened the filth and dearth of sunlight to a "vast human pig-sty," claiming that "There is but one 'Bend' in the world, and that is enough."
But beneath the harsh criticism of the 19th century figures, there is a redeeming quality brought out in Riis that has been substantiated by recent urban archeological projects. For all its roughness and difficult conditions, Five Points mixed the residential, commercial, and industrial elements in an unprecedented fashion, bringing together a wide array of immigrants. In the 1840s, Baxter Street became host to German Jews and New York's first garment district. Meanwhile, the neighborhood gained the strongest Irish presence outside of Dublin itself. In the 1880s, a large Italian population arrived, populating an adjacent neighborhood that remains to this day. Immigrants used Five Points as a stepping stone to a better life in a new land and one can now view the area not as a wretched slum but a vibrant multi-ethnic microcosm of New York as a whole. As Walt Whitman wrote in 1842, (the same year as Dickens),
the inner-city residents are "not paupers and criminals, but the Republic's most needed asset, the wealth of stout poor men who will work."
In the 20th century, the area around Five Points was subsumed by a sprawling Chinatown, as the latest generation of new immigrants contributed to the long culture of beginning afresh in Manhattan's historic downtown. The residents of the area around Five Points have always served as a paragon of hard work and the drive to succeed.
Mulberry Bend Park was planned in the 1880's by Calvert Vaux, co-designer of Central Park. Vaux saw it as an opportunity to bring new life and order into the depressed neighborhood. Riis remarked of Vaux's newly designed park that it is "little less than a revolution" to see the slum housing go down, while "In its place will come trees and grass and flowers: for its dark hovels light and sunshine and air." The park opened in the summer of 1897, with bench-lined curved walkways and an expansive, open grassy area.
It was one of the city's first major urban parks, and was home to such events as "Interpark Playground Basket Ball," then played by youth segregated by weight class, as described by the Park Commission in 1913. Throughout its life, the dynamic park has undergone many changes and much reconstruction. In 1934 a limestone recreation center was erected, which is now a comfort station. In the 1980s the construction of new playground equipment and the addition of basketball courts was undertaken. In 1990 work was completed on the pavement and the flagpole. In 1999 two new pieces of play equipment were installed, as well as new paving and safety surfacing. A medley of planting has been done regularly throughout the life of the park. The area continues to be a gathering place for people of different cultures and ages, and hosts a wide variety of events and assemblies.