Green space is a precious in this urban jungle, where every pocket park and hidden garden offers a temporary respite from the scenic trash heaps and condo development sites dotting the town. Community gardens take that tiny dedication to nature a step further, giving area residents the chance to transform abandoned lots and other blighted spots into lush greenery, offering everything from composting lessons to fish ponds to simple spots of tree-lined shade. Here are our favorites in the city; as always, leave yours in the comments.
WEST SIDE COMMUNITY GARDEN: I spent my first sunburnt Sunday of the year at this community garden, which hosted a spectacular Tulip Festival last month. That festival, an annual event, brought over 12,000 radiant tulips and other allergens to the Upper West Side, and it's just one small flower-filled slice of this nearly three-decade old garden, which broke ground on 89th Street in October 1987. The garden is currently maintained by volunteers and members of the non-profit West Side Community Garden organization, and boasts a floral amphitheater, vegetable beds, and an herb garden.
The West Side Community Garden is located at 142 West 89th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues on the Upper West Side (212-316-5490, westsidecommunitygarden.org).
BROOK PARK: This community garden, made up of a number of reclaimed lots, is a rare spot of green in the South Bronx, featuring an urban youth farm, chicken coops, garden beds, trees, and a grill area
and, according to Gothamist reporter Nathan Tempey, an occasional teepee where people perform Native American rituals. [Ed. note: The director of the park notes that the teepee is gone and will not be back for the foreseeable future.] The garden has also been linked to a history of activism, and a few years ago residents worried that the lots would be snatched up by developers. For now, though, the park is maintained by the Friends of Brook Park group, and continues to provide the community with some much-needed cultivated outdoor space.
Brook Park is located at the corner of Brook Avenue between 140th and 141st Streets in the Mott Haven section of The Bronx (212-639-9675, friendsofbrookpark.org).
9TH STREET GARDEN/LA PLAZA CULTURAL: The 9th Street Community Garden has had a storied history in the East Village where, in 1979, community members worked to install a little greenery in an abandoned urban lot. Over the years, the garden has boomed and bloomed, its 40,000 square feet featuring everything from vibrant flowers to mulberry trees, benches, Buddhas, a willow tree, a gazebo and a goldfish pond.
Note that this garden is located right by La Plaza Cultural, another worthy community garden that doubles as a theater/event space. That garden was also started by residents in the 1970s, and was nearly destroyed by developers in the 1980s, though it has since been landmarked by the city.
The 9th Street Garden is located at 9th Street and Avenue C in the East Village. La Plaza Cultural can be found on the southwest corner of 9th Street and Avenue C (laplazacultural.com).
Convent Garden post-Hurricane Sandy (Courtesy rufus's flickr)
THE CONVENT GARDEN: Convent Garden—not to be mistaken with Covent Garden—is actually a century-plus-old public park, but it's so beautifully kept up by area residents in conjunction with the Convent Garden Community Association that it warrants inclusion on this list. The 0.13 acre triangular space harbors trees, flowers, seating, a fountain, and a lovely gazebo, offering a green respite from the busy Sugar Hill neighborhood in which the park resides.
The Convent Garden is located at St. Nicholas Avenue and West 151st Street in Harlem (212-504-4115, nycgovparks.org).
Courtesy Harris Graber's flickr
TWO COVES COMMUNITY GARDEN: This former playground-turned-trash-heap in Queens was transformed into an urban garden by city officials back in the 1990s. Community members have since installed resident-kept flower beds, vegetable gardens, and the like, offering up plots through a lottery for locals looking to get their hands dirty. There's also a cute little hippie hut for optimal Mother Nature-ing.
Two Coves is located near 11-01 30th Avenue, between 8th Street, Astoria Boulevard, and 30th Avenue/Main Avenue in Astoria, Queens (twocovescommunitygarden.org).
CREATIVE LITTLE GARDEN: This lush East Village nook is part pocket park, part community garden, since it's maintained by volunteers from the neighborhood. And their work has paid off—the spot's well stocked with delightfully colorful flowers, trees and bushes, in addition to sweet little benches, potted plants, old-timey brick touches, sculptures, fountains, birdbaths, a waterfall and a birch-chip path. And if you yearn for chirping non-pigeon birds, this is your place: the Creative Little Garden is a National Wildlife Federation Habitat thanks to its hard work providing avian friends with happy little homes.
Creative Little Garden is located at 530 East 6th Street between Avenues A and B in the East Village (creativelittlegarden.com).
HANDS AND HEART GARDEN: East New York's future as the next WilliamsBushwick might hang in the balance, but for now, the neighborhood's still fairly devoid of plantable green space. Luckily, in 2006, food justice group East New York Farms was able to establish a community garden in an old abandoned plot, eventually drawing nearly three dozen gardeners from all over the area. The garden's got an eclectic batch of crops, including West Indian, West African and Southern vegetables that then get sold at local farmers markets. They've also got composting stations, a water collection system and a number of programming aimed at promoting sustainable agriculture.
Hands and Heart Garden is located at 293 New Lots Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn (grownyc.org).
Courtesy Vivenne Gucwa's flickr
LIZ CHRISTY COMMUNITY GARDEN: The Liz Christy Community Garden earns the distinction of being the first of its kind in the city, having been founded first by gardening activist Liz Christy in 1973, and officially approved for rental by the Office of Housing Preservation and Development the following year. In the decades since, neighbors have transformed this former vacant lot into a vibrant green space, boasting everything from a birch tree grove to vegetable gardens, wildflowers, and a pond. Potential gardeners can volunteer their time to earn a garden key.
The Liz Christy Garden is located at the corner of Bowery and Houston Streets in the East Village (lizchristygarden.us).
SMILING HOGSHEAD RANCH: A few rebellious gardeners created Smiling Hogshead Ranch back in 2011, setting up shop on an abandoned LIRR railroad spur and planting herbs, vegetables, fruiting and nut trees, shrubs and vines. The guerrilla garden escaped detection for about a year until a cranky neighbor supposedly complained to the MTA, but luckily the agency gave their seal of approval. Now, green thumbed residents can grow fruits and vegetables to their hearts' delight. (Joanna Purpich)
Smiling Hogshead Ranch is located at 25-30 Skillman Avenue in Long Island City, Queens (347-509-4464, smiling-hogshead-ranch.tumblr.com).
462 HALSEY COMMUNITY GARDEN: This Bed-Stuy garden's mission is to teach community members and New Yorkers how to be environmentally-responsible human beings. The garden focuses on growing organic fruits and vegetables, and volunteers will even show visitors how to compost. They also provide workshops and a gardening library. Communal plots are open to the public from April through October, and members can sign up for their own plot, which allots them access to the garden year round. (Joanna Purpich)
The 462 Halsey Community Garden located at 462 Halsey Street between Lewis Avenue and Marcus Garvey Boulevard in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn (462halsey.com).