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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Orchard Alley Community Garden

Here's another exception to my rule about skipping community gardens. Do I need to change the rule? Self-imposed rules are always mutable I guess.

Like the nearby Parque de Tranquilidad, the Orchard Alley Community Garden is worth a stop when on a wander through the East Village.

The name isn't fanciful – the piece of fruit lovingly pictured below (it looks like an actual apple) actually suggests actual orchard action.

The Internet doesn't have a lot of information about this place, but here's a little background from New York Cares. The Garden has been discovered by the folks at Make Music New York among others. But it's nice to stumble in when there's no one else around. This path looks inviting:

And while there's nothing especially remarkable about this tree, sometimes it's nice to just appreciate the appearance of trees and plants against the geometry of a building. To a parks blogger like yours truly, nothing says "New York City" quite like a view like this:

Friday, November 18, 2011

St. Nicholas Park and Hamilton Grange

St. Nicholas Park is notable for among other things its steep terrain, but since Alexander Hamilton's 210-year-old house moved in, there's more reason to visit. Though perhaps that's not entirely fair to the park, which does have its own society and website describing it as "[f]orged by nature in rugged masses of rock."

Those masses of good old New York City rock are on extravagant display in the park's north end:

St. Nicholas of Myra, patron saint of the original Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, gift-bringer, and inspiration for Santa Claus, lent his name to several streets in this part of Harlem as well as to the park. In an interesting twist for the Great Recession era, he's also the patron saint of pawnbrokers and repentant thieves, as well as – according to the Parks Department website – bankers.

If that's true, how appropriate that the house Alexander Hamilton built for his family in 1800-1802 has ended up here (after not one but two local moves). As President George Washington's Treasury Secretary, Hamilton established the system of national credit under which the U.S. has operated since the post-Revolutionary period.

The city originally acquired some of the land that's now St. Nicholas Park for the Croton Aqueduct. That land ended up part of a long 23-acre "ribbon park" that also features a dog run, a playground, sports facilities, and some Revolutionary War history. These photos are from the park's quiet north end.

The National Park Service moved, partially restored, re-opened to the public, and runs Hamilton Grange, giving tours of the house's interior. Among the period furnishings are some of Hamilton's own items. He and his family had a few happy years here at the beginning of the 19th century, before he was killed in the famous duel with Aaron Burr, across the river in New Jersey. This is Alexander Hamilton's desk.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Parque de Tranquilidad

Generally I don't include community gardens in this blog, but coming upon Parque de Tranquilidad on a walk through the East Village was such a lush surprise I couldn't skip documenting it. Built on the site of an 1887 synagogue and founded in 1979, the garden has winding paths, charmingly crumbled seating, and a water supply that keeps the dense vegetation thriving.

It's one of those spaces that feels bigger than it is thanks to the tight spaces, the twists and turns, and the elevated oxygen levels.

And look! Big yellow fruit!

So pay a visit to Parque de Tranquilidad on Far East 4th Street next time you're in the East Village. And if it's summer or early fall, bring insect repellent – this place has its own microclimate.