Friday, September 23, 2011

East Houston park

In the year before Holly, Wood and Vine and I parted ways (unwillingly, on my part) 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 derelict strip in the middle of Houston Street that had the ironic "Greenstreets" sign planted in it. More like brownstreets. And then, when I asked more questions, they went farther and agreed to partner with the company to transform the lot across the road from fenced-off wasteland to public park.

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

So to have an agreement to open it up again for public use was very exciting. But then I was fired (my generous salary, based on commission, was a burden, mid recession, apparently). After I left the company the median was no longer maintained, and while HWV went as far as implementing the path in the corner lot and creating the beginnings of a berm, progress then stopped, and the chainlink gates remained locked.

These are scans of the schematics I created for the park on the heavy French stock using the three shades of primary colours I love to work with. Plant labels came later. 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.

Recently, however, on my way to Izumi's salon (snip snip) and Momofuku the other night I was surprised and very happy to see that the lot has at last been transformed, not by the landscape company or by the Parks Department (do they actually do anything green in the city - why are they so underfunded?) 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 plantings: white "Knockout"  roses planted thickly under the big old plane trees. Not exactly my woodland dream, but better than nothing.

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.


  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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