Friday, September 23, 2011

East Houston park

Before I left Holly, Wood and Vine, I designed a park for a corner lot on East Houston Street. Initially, I had contacted and met with the Parks Department about resurrecting the Median, a barren strip in the middle of Houston Street that had the ironic "Greenstreets" sign planted in it. More like brownstreets. And then they went farther and agreed to partner with the company to transform the lot across the road from fenced-off wasteland to public park. Very exciting. Sadly, none of that has happened. After I left the company the Median was not maintained, and while HWV went as far as implementing the path  in the corner lot and creating the beginnings of a berm, I don't know the details of how or why the follow-through fizzled out. Money, interest, lack of, I suspect.

These are scans of the schematics I created for the park on the heavy French stock with the three shades of primary colours I love to work with. Labels came later. I still have the parchment planting plans and plant numbers scrolled in their own tube. The scheme was mostly native, and heavy on wild edibles. Sassafras, spicebush and serviceberry, sumac and blueberries. Trout lilies in spring, Pinxter azaleas and Rhododendron austrinum, wild ginger, drifts of Virginian bluebells. Tall lilies and Joe-Pye weed in summer, asters and golden rod round about now. Fall witch hazel. And a lot more.

The reason the subject comes up now is that on our way to Izumi's salon (snip snip) and Momofuku the other night I was surprised and very happy to see that the lot has in fact been transformed, not by the landscape company or by the Parks Department (do they actually do anything green in the city?) but by BMW and Guggenheim Labs. A pop up event space. It was wonderful to see the long neglected and ignored city land used to such good effect. As for the planting, well, that was a bit silly, and a waste of money: white "Knockout"  roses planted thickly under the big old plane trees. Um...Full shade. Whose idea was that?

It was hard to let go of  my vision for this park. But I am relieved to know that this valuable space is being put to use at last, even though it is not exactly the indigenous ramble I had imagined.

It had been fallow and off limits for decades, ever since the bad old days of gritty New York when many homeless people slept and camped out and lit fires at night. The homeowners whose buildings' rears faced the lot clubbed together and forced the city to close the park. And so it had sat, useless to everyone.

Now, it lives. When the lab moves on to Berlin and Mumbai? The roses die and then...



  1. I think you need to become a guerilla gardener and recruit a team to do undercover addition to the cleaning lady work!!

  2. Such lovely designs - glad to see them. Maybe once the neighbors get used to seeing something growing there they will adopt it. Do keep an eye on it, tho.

  3. Marie, I've been going to many of the events at the Lab and one of the nice things about them is that they are focused figuring out neighborhood use of the Lab space, post the Lab. Fingers crossed!

    Hope all is very well!

  4. I love your watercolor sketches !

    You could frame them as pieces of Art.


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