Community Gardens in NYC

Whether or not the weather cooperates, I’ve decided that from here on out it’s going to be spring. No more sweaters and scarves – I’m packing up my winter clothes and taking nothing more than a light jacket with me wherever I go. I don’t care if it’s still high forties/low fifties – having worn the same clothes now since October (7 months. SEVEN. MONTHS), I’ve decided hypothermia-be-damned, I’m putting on my maxi dresses and cropped jeans and simply willing it to be Spring.

In part of my efforts to usher in the new season, I spent yesterday in one of NYC’s loveliest community gardens on the Upper West Side.  If you live in NYC or are visiting, and like me have a pronounced claustrophobia that gets exacerbated by hordes of people swarming the community gardens’ more haute couture older sisters (Central Park, Prospect Park, the Botanical Gardens), one of the hundred or so community gardens will suffice to satiate your longing for Spring and the outdoors sans the crowds.

Founded in 1975, New York City’s GrowNYC Garden Project has transformed vacant urban spaces throughout the city into over a hundred tiny, community-oriented green spaces speckled across the five boroughs. Each garden reflects the values and interests of its particular community – and the many volunteers that either plant or decorate it. Many gardens contain “knitting bombs” decorating trees, fences, or gates; some have benches and a small play area for children, while others may have areas for people to plant fruits and vegetables, or perhaps fresh herbs.

As the line between audience and artist (or gardener!), spectator and participant, is blurred, so is the role of the garden in each community. With real estate scarce (especially in Manhattan), and several community gardens either destroyed or slated for destruction in order to make way for condos and public housing, it’s becoming less and less common to find these quiet retreats amongst the bustling city streets.

Recently, however, I had the great pleasure of visiting the Upper West Side Community Garden on 89th and Amsterdam for their spectacular two-weekend Tulip Festival! The darlings of spring, Tulips are my absolutely favorite flower – pretty much the only flower I will fork out cash for knowing full-well that in less than a week they will probably have vanished forever, ephemeral objects as they are.

As such, I was absolutely elated to spend an afternoon enjoying the beautiful, eye-popping colors of nature at her finest. Some of the tulips were so bright, they almost hurt to look at – but in a good way.

If a picture is worth a thousand words,  I might’ve written a novel.

Instead, I’ll spare you my appendix to War and Peace and showcase a few selected snapshots:


Okay, not technically tulips, but WOW! Those colors!


Flower are SO easy to photograph because of their natural beauty – no styling, no “setting up shots” – they can make anyone feel like a badass photog in the making.


Even still, the photos don’t really do it justice.


You’ll just have to trust me – or plan your own trip to one of the free, open-to-the-public urban oases yourself!



  1. Mad Hatters NYC

    We first discovered a community garden in Alphabet City years ago when we were searching for a place to devour our freshly procured waffles (shocking, I know!), and we’ve kept our eyes peeled for them ever since. It’s quite amazing how many of them there are, and the type of activities/services they offer. We came across one that had chickens! I think they capture the sense of community so well.

    I love the pictures from the Tulip Festival, the vivid colors are an instant mood brightener! It’s a slice of Kuekenhof in NYC, and the perfect way to will spring into being! 😉


    1. girlingothamcity

      Oh my goodness, I can only imagine a community garden with chickens running around! A good friend of mine used to raise chickens and had a pet hen named Gigi who lived to be over 16 years old! She would’ve been in heaven.

      I completely agree – the diversity you’ll find from garden to garden is incredible, and I love the way a community incorporates it into their identity. Down by Elizabeth Street, the community fought back (unsuccessfully, I think) against the proposed destruction of the community garden for a senior living center. Unfortunately real estate is scarce, and it’s making it harder and harder to keep some of these gardens afloat, but it’s kind of inspiring to see people rally around something that’s not pure commerce, economics, and utility but just….beautiful.

      On that note, DO share from where said waffles were procured! We all know the important part of that story was the waffle… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mad Hatters NYC

        It was Wafels and Dinges! We’d just discovered their brick and mortar location on Ave B at the time. It was a nice day and we decided to get our waffles to go, then realized they were impossible to eat while walking! (D-uh.) We probably would have plopped ourselves down on a stoop, but the community garden at 6th Street and Ave B saved us from ourselves 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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