The Heckscher Foundation is increasingly invested in creating and maintaining livable public parks and public gardens in New York City, including the Ruth and Arthur Smadbeck Heckscher East Playground, one of the most heavily used and distinctive features of Central Park. The playground’s focal point is the sculpture titled Group of Bears, by renowned artist Paul Manship. Often called “Three Bears,” the sculpture sits on a stepped platform, surrounded by a large circular seating area at the entrance to the playground. The entire playground was re-built through Heckscher funding.
The renovation of the Ruth and Arthur Smadbeck Heckscher East Playground gives the foundation the distinction of having underwritten playgrounds at the most Eastern, Western, Northern, and Southern reaches of the Central Park Conservancy’s Stewardship. The 1926 Heckscher Ball Fields and Heckscher Playground anchor the Southern-most part of Central Park. The foundation also underwrote the completion of the Northern-most playground in Central Park at 109th Street, which serves the upper Manhattan community, and, in addition to other West Side playgrounds in the park, has underwritten the far West Side 70th Street Ball Field, located under the Westside Highway next to the Hudson River.