Memories of Poe Park

Poe's Visitor CenterJPEG

In the summers of 1989 and 1990, I spent plenty of time hanging out at Poe Park. Located on the Grand Concourse between East 192nd St and East Kingsbridge Rd, the park is named after American author Edgar Allan Poe.

In those days, hip hop and freestyle music were the preferences of those gathering in the park. Linoleum would be placed on the concrete. A boom box would play music and people would gather in a sphere to watch dance crews battle.

Poe's Visitor CenterJPEGAlways starting out with a simple dance move, the dancer quickly shifted into complex moves requiring strength, control and poise. The dancer’s body effortlessly bent in the most incomprehensible ways. The dance moves were combined with gestures targeted to disrespect or “dis” rival dance crews. The energy was always incredible!

Other times a sphere would form to hear some rhyme. No boom box needed – there was always a human beat box in the crowd. Someone would create the beats and others would jump in and freestyle. Freestyling lyrics requires creativity, it truly is an art. It is not easy to convert thoughts into rhyme on spot, deliver it and make it sound hot. The crowd served as judges. They’d cheer skilled ones on, and shut down all others.

I also remember hip hop and freestyle concerts at the bandstand.

Music concerts have been held in the park since its opening in 1902. Erected in 1925 the bandstand offered a concert space. The first offered were classical music. Due to the large crowds, the park became a hub on the Grand Concourse. At that time, living on the Concourse was a sign of upward mobility.

I recently visited Poe Park, and much has changed.

The bandstand is intact and Poe’s Cottage is still at the north section of the park.


New equipment has been installed in the playground area, and the Visitor Center is now open. Currently, curated by Lucy Aponte and Laura Alvarez, the “Whimsical Winter Wonderland” exhibit is featured in the Center. Open to the public on the weekends, Poe’s Cottage can also be visited.


We all have stories we can share, and as curious as I am, I wonder – what are YOUR memories of Poe Park?

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