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Community Gardens

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Tucked into vacant lots and unused corners of the city, New York’s Community Gardens can feel like a real discovery when you happen upon them. Two months ago we exited the subway at 2nd Avenue on our way to brunch and came face-to-face with the Liz Christy Community Garden. How I’ve missed it all these years I have no idea! Even in mid-winter the respite it offered from traffic-thronged Houston Street was a welcome one, and we spent 15 minutes walking its serpentine pathways and watching fish in the pond. A volunteer gardener kindly welcomed us to stay as long as we wished, and if we hadn’t had a reservation to make we wouldn’t have pressed on quite so quickly.

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Springing up as a positive reaction to New York’s urban decline in the 1960s and 70s, community gardens offered residents a way to invest in improving their surrounding neighborhoods. Now used both as green spaces and sites for urban agriculture, the community gardens are often beloved neighborhood fixtures and real labors of love.

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Friends who live on the Upper West Side adore their local garden, and this past weekend we stopped by during a visit with them. Known for its tulip display, the annual Tulip Festival at the West Side Community Garden was in full swing, and neighbors sat on every available bench, soaking in the warm spring sunshine and enjoying the flowers. Community gardens have a way of making New York feel more approachable in scale – more like a collection of distinct neighborhoods than a huge metropolis with a population approaching 9 million people. I know we’ll be more mindful and aware as we wander from now on, keeping our eyes peeled for these little strongholds of civic pride and collaboration. Here’s to more happy moments of discovery as we encounter more community gardens around the city!


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