The flowers don't stop growing when the scientists move away—at least not at the Boyce Thompson Institute in Yonkers.
It all started with a visit to Russia in 1917. William Boyce Thompson was a fabulously wealthy copper magnate with a big heart: the starving populous in Russia disturbed him, and convinced him to invest his millions in feeding the hungry back home. In 1924 Thompson gave $10 million to the Institute for Plant Research and opened up laboratories across the street from his country estate, Alder Manor.
Fast forward to 1978, and Thompson's greenhouses are still thriving horticultural incubators, but Yonkers, not so much. In the face of some of the worst air pollution in the country and a steep rise in city taxes, the Boyce Thompson Institute relocated to the Cornell University campus. Until the mid-1990s, the institute in Yonkers was actively leased out, but the greenhouses were left to the plants and allowed to decay. In 1999 the Yonkers campus was sold to the City of Yonkers Board of Education, and today potential buyers are actively being sought out. So far, no buyers are biting.
Today, ten years of disuse have left the glassless greenhouses and the building itself severely tagged up and fallen down. A haven for grafheads, the institute's total lack of security and plentiful open panels have allowed for some clearly time consuming, extensive pieces to appear on many walls, especially on the second floor. An esoteric array of candles dot a quaint and creepy attic space, and the basement is full of cats and paper plates.
Hannah Frishberg is a 5th generation Brooklynite.