Riverside Church New York

Image by Mike Steele

Riverside Church – Political activism

I used to play squash at Columbia University with Percy Grainger, my friend from long ago, who died as the result of a terrible bicycle accident on a Manhattan street. He was a playwright and as I am lighting designer, we had much in common and spent much time together.

Columbia University, his alma mater, is fun to visit, wandering into whatever buildings you can, or attending an Ivy League basketball game, comparable to attending an Off-off Broadway play.

Nearby, towards the Hudson River is Riverside Church. I don’t have a lot to write about it: it’s beautiful, regal, voluminous, beautifully situated. A Rockefeller was instrumental in getting it built and a good thing that was as early on it became a center of political activism.

Those who have spoken there include Martin Luther King Jr. (the famous ‘Riverside Church’ speech), Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Cesar Chavez, and scores of others.

Also nearby is The Manhattan School of Music, one of the great schools of music in the United States (along with Juilliard, Curtis (Philadelphia) and Berklee (Boston) and across the street, Grant’s Tomb.

There is a café in the basement that is worthy of a pick-me-up before you leave.

For me, Riverside is a place I go when I’m nearby, to think about the fun Percy and I had together, his family, the tragedies life delivers from time to time and the adaptations we constantly make to survive it.

Go, seek inspiration.


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Details about this spot



490 Riverside Drive, New York

Telephone number


Opening Times

07:00 - 22:00 daily




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Last Changed Date: 2016-05-19 11:45:13 +0200 (Thu, 19 May 2016)