Alice Parsekian, 86, caretaker and gardener on the sidewalks

By Albert Amateau 

Alice Parsekian, a 50-year resident of W. 34th St. who became a legend as a gardener and caretaker of public space and street furniture in her West Side neighborhood, died Jan. 31 at age 86.

She was active and looked younger than her years until she suffered a stroke on Jan. 3, said Carole King, whose family had known Alice since childhood.

“She never stopped doing good work,” said Mary Broderick, a friend and longtime resident of 10th Ave. near 34th St. 

“She was a one-woman neighborhood-improvement committee, but she never made anyone feel guilty for not working as hard as she did,” said Cathleen Treat, a neighbor.

Among Alice’s notable achievements was creating and maintaining a garden on space owned by the Port Authority on 34th St. between Ninth and 10th Aves., where an approach to the Lincoln Tunnel runs beneath the street. She also tended the garden area in front of the Midtown South Precinct police station on 35th St. just east of Ninth Ave.

She was a familiar figure along Eighth and Ninth Aves. with paintbrushes and paint cans, repainting U.S. Mail boxes that had been covered with graffiti. Indeed, the district postmaster of zip code 10011 recognized Alice’s contribution, and so did Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, who bestowed a certificate of appreciation on her in 2001.

“Alice met my mother in 1936 at a summer camp,” King said at a Feb. 13 Mass for Alice at St. Michael’s Church on W. 34th St. “By 1939, they both became orphans when their parents died.”

Alice was born to Armenian parents who emigrated from Turkey and lived in the Bronx. After they died, she lived at the St. Agnes Residence in the Bronx and became a Roman Catholic convert. She went to Taft High School in the Bronx and later moved to The Webster women’s residence on 34th St.

She worked as a secretary for the city Department of Health and then for the state Division of Parole. But she wanted to travel, so she got a job as a secretary with the U.S. Army and was assigned to Germany, where she worked — and traveled on vacations — until 1953. She managed to visit eight countries, and saw the coronation procession of Queen Elizabeth II from a London rooftop.

She later worked as a secretary for a number of firms until 2001, when she retired. At her funeral Mass at St. Michael’s, members of the Midtown South police precinct were present as well as Community Board 4 members.