Dreamy Gardenscapes in Alphabet City ~ East Village, NYC

With temperatures nearing 100F in Manhattan today, a pleasant stroll in the East Village soon turned into a sweaty saunter. Perhaps the only neighbourhood with such a good amount of community gardens, I welcomed them as regular rest stops as I made my way along Avenues A, B, and C.

After an entertaining morning (more on that in a later post), my final pit stop at the 9th Street Community Garden Park was the perfect end note. So well tended, so well cared for – it was an escape from the motion filled sun drenched streets.

The 9th Street Community Garden Park is one of the larger community gardens that I have come across. Walking along its haphazard brick- and rock paved pathways, unless I looked through a part of the steel fence not covered in green, I hardly noticed I was surrounded by busy streets. Instead, I felt still; I even treaded softly from fear of making too much noise. I heard the chirp of birds, photographed blooms, followed bees with my lens, while cooling down in the shade of overhanging vines and canopy provided by a 35 year old giant willow tree. Except for a few others – so silent, they startled me; the flora and the fauna, I felt as if I had the space to myself.

It was as if I has stumbled into a dream when I entered this lot of green. It was such a contrast to the heat of the day, and the chaos of the streets. The East Village is probably one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in New York – I’ve read it has changed dramatically over the years, so I can’t imagine what it was like way back when. Today, it’s gritty and it’s glam; it caters to theΒ  middle class, and the homeless; it’s streets are strewn with trash, yet they surprise you by offering a few beautiful community gardens to enjoy.

Enjoy the peek inside my favourite park so far.

Located on the corner of 9th Street and Avenue C, it’s hard to think of this garden having been anything but a beautiful green space. Prior to 1978, it was a dreary corner lot in an unsafe part of the East Village.

In the late seventies, the members who transformed it were from the immediate neighborhood. Though as the city changed, so did the membership. Today, the garden is sponsored by a handful of members – who pay $15 a year, as well as by NY’s Green Thumb organisation. The green space faces a well-trodden street lined with delis, restaurants, and laundromats.

9th Street Community Garden is so diverse in its plantings – on one side you might see a bush of voluminous hydrangeas; on the other – mini tomatoes, yet to turn red. I read that there’s a beehive in the garden, and its bee keeper/owner sells honey at the 14 Street Union Square Market. I noticed the bees, but didn’t see the beehive.

Quirk factors abound. From the furnishings -there’s plenty of seating, to the more unexpected finds.

I nearly missed this well camouflaged rabbit in between purple daisies. I was so distracted; I was trying to zoom in on, and photograph, this busy bee.

When the garden began, members expanded and enriched the available land, gaining additional lots through the condemnation of and the razing of adjacent buildings.* It now encompasses one acre.

Lush vines overflow and evoke that sense of otherwordliness. A mix of moonflower, honeysuckle and bittersweet – they were planted over two decades ago.

The beauty of the community gardens is multifold. Firstly, it unites a diverse neighbourhood through mutual collaboration of what looks to me like, a labour of love.

Secondly, sharing the garden with the wider community is such a generous act. It’s what makes a neighbourhood so much more appealing and inviting. Apart for giving someone like me a pleasant respite from the heat, such spaces are used for theatre productions, music events, private parties, school outings, or simply as a place to gather with friends. Thirdly, the garden gives members a place to exercise sustainable living. Especially in a part of NY that has such a varied population (East Village is a mix of low and mid income levels), spaces like this support a healthier way of life.

The community garden is unlikely to expand any further. I read that when the Green Thumb Organisation was transferred from the Dept of Parks and Recreation to Dept of Housing Preservation and Development, a number of the East Village community gardens were destroyed to make way for low income housing.

I cannot find any information about the future of 9th Street Community Garden Park. For now, their objective is to garner more community interest and involvement.

If you’re in this part of NY, I encourage you to visit one of the gardens. They’re so accessible that they’re hardly secret… yet when you’re there, you feel like you’re the only one.


43 thoughts on “Dreamy Gardenscapes in Alphabet City ~ East Village, NYC

  1. What a beautiful garden to escape the heat in. I remember seeing a few similar gardens whilst wandering the streets of NYC and being impressed that they were community projects. I was also fascinated to learn that it is the community that plant the street trees as well.

    • Hi Jenny! Glad you saw some NYC community gardens. It’s upsetting that some have been bulldozed – all the hard work and effort gone because the city wants to build housing. I had no idea that the community plant the street trees – thanks for sharing that!

  2. Such a beautiful place to which to escape the hustle and bustle and blazing sun! In addition to the brilliant blooms, the rabbit is quite impressive. Do you know what it’s made of, Marina?

    • Tricia, it felt like being whisked into a wonderland. I had no idea where the path would lead and the garden was so well looked after. I am not sure what the rabbit was made of – maybe wire with green felt? Something to withstand the rain and snow (?) I hope! Thank you!

  3. Community gardens are such a brilliant concept. We had a community garden close to where I was living in London and I was a frequent visitor. Lovely post Marina with some smashing pictures.. oh where is our share of that sunshine..! πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Adrian, glad to bring some memories of London to you. We have had quite a dose of Vitamin D here, and I’ve been reading about the rain in the UK. Sending sun to you!

    • Hi Karen! Thanks – I am glad I stumbled on this rabbit. Honestly, I thought I’d get stung by a bee so in my mad dash, I saw this rabbit under my feet. Gardens are so calm. NY needs more of them.

  4. I love this post, M. In my ideal ‘I’m a lover not a fighter’ world, community gardens and shared spaces are a giant step forward. Just love them. Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

    • Hi Syders! Online at the same time – love it! They are a giant step forward but can you believe some have been bulldozed? So shameful 😦 The neighbourhood is so much better for spaces like these – it curbs so much, and is only for the better.

  5. What a beautiful escape! Great photos! We are also experiencing high heat and no relief of rain. June was rainless. Hopefully we get something in July. It’s good to have places to escape to.

    • Hi fergiemoto – I think it’s going to be a regular thing to do when I am downtown. if you’re in NY, do check these gardens out. They are so calm, meditative, and necessary in a city as busy, humid, and activity packed as New York. I hope we get some rain too. Stay cool πŸ™‚ Thank you!

  6. Community gardens are just so appealing. They seem to be filled with the diverse beauty and personalities of the caretakers along with all the various lush plantings. I can think of no better purpose for an empty lot. I see why it would be a favourite, Marina.

    • I agree Karen. But these lots now seem to be under the eye of the city, who see bigger things for them – a condo, perhaps? I hope that they continue being part of the neighbourhood. people need space, Not another building to stare at! So happy to share this πŸ™‚ Thanks!

  7. Fabulous post Marina! I just adore community gardens and your gorgeous photos pay them every bit of tribute they deserve. Love especially that tired ‘spent’ allium bulb (is that right?) – they are even gorgeous on their way out! πŸ™‚

    • Hi Shira! So glad you liked this post – and is that the name of that plant? I don’t know but thanks for sharing it. Like you say, even on its way out the bulb looks so pretty, whimsical, and elegant. Thanks so much πŸ™‚

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  9. I love gardens! It’s so cool to escape busy streets and get lost in a huge green park πŸ™‚ It looks so peaceful and fresh in this community garden πŸ™‚ It’s a great gesture of the members of this park to share it with wider community πŸ™‚ Sounds like a great place to visit πŸ™‚

    • Hi K! It’s so true – getting lost in the greenery is so wonderful – it’s such a nice pause from the craziness of the outside world of concrete and steel! I like that you say it is a “great gesture of members to share with the wider community.” that’s such a nice way to think of it. Thank you!

    • Hi Gerard, I hope you might visit one of the gardens in that area. It’s really a nice break from the heat and encouraging to see such work being done by the community. thank you!

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