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Best Inner-City Sanctum

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Paley Park
East 53rd Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues

It's called a vest-pocket park for good reason: Walk east on 53rd Street from Fifth Avenue and you could easily miss it, so hidden and unobtrusive are its charms. Indeed, Paley Park is so small it hardly seems to deserve a word we associate with acreage and green things. But New Yorkers know a good thing when they do see one, as in this micro-retreat whose main calling card is a hypnotic 25-foot cataract in the noisy heart of midtown. The park itself, though not the most verdant, still manages to charm with its neo-Bauhaus lines and randomly sprouting trees. It's wedged miraculously among a few gray buildings; visitors can look up from the ivy-clad wall toward a star or two peeked in the octagonally shaped sky. Worker bees can take their sack lunch to the Jetsons-style tables, kick up their feet on a bolted chair, and hear the soothing rumble of the waterfall almost drown out the jackhammers and sirens of their city -- and their psyches.

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