I'll say it again. This is my favourite garden in New York. Not one of my favourites, my favourite. I love it. I have taken spring pictures of it, and late summer pictures, and winter pictures. I have exported it to Cape Town and waxed lyrical about it.
It begs the questions: why?
I'd have to pick it to pieces to answer, and picked to pieces, rarities falter. My response is instinctive. Like love, when you know, you know.
So there's the canal. Context. In New York, for starters, with a drawbridge.
Then there's the wide concrete sidewalk on what is still - but will not forever remain so - a barren stretch of Union Street. Warehouses, low buildings, sunbaked, empty. Slightly decrepit in a WH Auden way.
There are the old brick walls filled with graffiti...well, they used to be: they have been painted over in an unhumourous brown. That's the first loss.
There was the contradiction: cottage garden flowers like larkspurs, snapdragons and hollyhocks growing historied and tall against a canvas of urban vandalism. It was wonderful.
There are the eclectic perennials and the ten foot sunflowers. Lots of them.
(Above, yellow loosestrife, Lysimachia punctata).
So when I saw not only The Waterer there today, but his red-haired companion, I knew I'd struck gold. It was Kirstin, the Gowanus Garden Lady.
She told me how on Friday they had been informed that this Tuesday the city will be resurfacing the sidewalk, and that the part of the garden next to the road must go or be destroyed.
Just like that.
It gets complicated. Zoning laws, litigation issues, trip hazard, nice landlords, lack of ownership, fear of repercussions, Byzantine - as The Waterer put it - bureaucracy.
This little part of New York deserves a medal, a plaque, a prize, protective yellow police tape; Exceptional Status as an iconically urban garden, placing it beyond the reach of red tape. This garden IS New York. It is also living art. This is what the best of the city is: creative, beautiful opportunism.On the one hand we have the Million Trees project, the Greenest Block in Brooklyn Contest and on the other we have Oh, oops! This garden that graces the cesspool of the great, grey-green greasy Gowanus, is in the way of our nice smooth heat radiating trip-free concrete!
What to do.
We shall see what we shall see.