Monday, September 28, 2009

Park on East Houston

The soil sample from our planned park on East Houston. I dug several 8" deep holes along the length of the currently empty lot, mixed all the soil I collected up in a clean container, and bagged a half pound for mailing. Soberingly, the far western end is only 2" of soil over a submerged paving scheme.

It was only recently that I learned that this used to be a park! This from an LES resident who has known the area for almost 40 years. The city closed it in the 1970's due to the pressure of complaints from neighours - whose (derelict) gardens abut the lot - about the homeless people who used to sleep on the benches and light fires at night to stay warm. Ok, I don't know the New York of the 70's, the 80's or even 90's. Though I still see the effects of dope use on our little strip of Forsyth Street - the midstride, 90' bending waist, rooted to the spot, oblivion - which is near the last holdout areas of flophouses and soup kitchens, the city of danger is not one I know from experience.

I also see, again and again, the reaction of seasoned officials to, for instance, the concept of having benches in the park. You must make them so no one can lie down! is the injunction. My knee jerk reaction is to tap on an imaginary wristwatch and say, Um , hello, 2009, anyone? - Before I remember that these guys run the parks, and have seen more than I ever have.

But I do see the homeless on a daily basis. And something disturbs me about "getting them out". To where? How desperate to have no home, not even a park bench.

The City will begin excavating in mid-October. There is a lot of old paving and concrete, that old layer beneath the 2" of soil, and maybe more to surprise us, too. I'm not sure how long it will take, so we may or may not plant this fall. Tricky. But spring is good, too.

The soil sample is being mailed today to Dr. Cheng, Brooklyn College Environmental Sciences Analytical Center, 2900 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11210. Thanks to NYCGarden for that contact.

If you need to analyse your garden's soil, you can download the simple form you need from here.

I am of course curious about its pH, and nutrient content but also heavy metal levels. Some of the plants I'd like to include have edible berries: amelanchier, elderflower [selfish!...I want berries and lowers for cordial and jam!], blueberry...

I spent the whole of today happily working on the final plant list, in heaven. Sans interruption. Cross-referencing, checking on bloom times and sequence, fruit, sourcing plants. Making wishlists. I'll post it soon.

And the benches will be friendly.
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