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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Albert's Garden and the Trust for Public Land

Studding the city are small gardens like little green jewels. Many are community gardens established on vacant properties, looked after by community groups, and never entirely safe from development.

Albert's Garden looks just like such a space, but isn't. The property on 2nd St. by the New York Marble Cemetery in Manhattan's East Village was secured back in 1999 by the Trust for Public Land, an organization devoted to the noble cause of "conserving land for people." If there's a higher calling than that, I'm hard pressed to think of it.

It was in the course of a failed attempt to visit the Marble Cemetery that we discovered Albert's Garden. A listing in Time Out New York said there'd be a rare opportunity to visit the cemetery that day, but alas, the boneyard proved to be locked up tight and silent. But then Albert's Garden appeared. Owned by the Manhattan Land Trust, which has over a dozen such properties around the island (including Parque de Tranquilidad), Albert's is a lush, nicely cared for garden. That's all there is to it, and all there has to be.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Marcus Garvey Park

At an impressively hilly 20 acres, the former Mount Morris Park has been a city park since 1840. It was renamed Marcus Garvey Park in 1973 after the prominent Black Nationalist, who hailed from Jamaica and was educated in London but worked out of Harlem in the early part of the 20th century with the organization he had founded, the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

From the southern entrance at Fifth Avenue and 120th St. the park has a somewhat forbidding look, with a wall of schist overlooked by a second, man-made wall.

This impression gives way to an imposing but relatively welcoming set of stairs leading to the park's central Upper Level. The British used this high point as a lookout site during the Revolutionary War. Today's it's topped by a historic cast iron fire tower built in 1856. (Back then practically the whole city was made of wood, so it paid to keep a vigilant lookout for fires.)
On a temperate Saturday in the fall, not many people were using the Upper Level paths. It was possible to feel isolated amid the landscape's grand sweep.
By contrast, a whimsical fence runs alongside the large outdoor swimming pool.
Looking up the Mount, a landscape of rocks, trees, and autumn leaves led up to the wall.
On the west side of the park a lone spectator took in an imaginary show at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheatre.
Fall isn't the best time for flower photos, but I took advantage of a rare opportunity here.
On the east side there's a drummers' circle along with play areas and walkways. While walking the park's perimeter I also encountered this striking juxtaposition of the natural and the man-made:
But the most remarkable thing I encountered on my mini-trek through this fine park had to be the amazing burl on this plane tree.
And with that, we leave Marcus Garvey Park for now, noting that Superstorm Sandy, in whose aftermath I write this, may have damaged any number of the trees and other elements I've documented on this blog in this park and many others. All the city parks have been closed all week; when they reopen I'll get a look at some of the damage done. Meanwhile, be glad, as I am, that New York City has so many and such a great variety of excellent parks. May they weather every storm.