Gardeners pack it up for the season


By Chelsea-Lyn Rudder

The gardeners of Liberty Community Garden packed up their plants and perennials Oct. 10 with a sense of optimism that was not reflected by the day’s dreary autumn weather.

The State Department of Transportation’s newly approved plan for Route 9A calls for the relocation of the community garden at West Thames Park. The move required a little extra end of season work on the part of the gardeners affected, but most were confident that the move would be a positive change. The gardeners spent several hours on Saturday morning readying their plants, flowers and shrubs for the move.

“Turning a parking lot into a garden is a fantastic idea” said Miriam Kimmelman, director of Liberty Community Garden. “D.O.T. has been more than cooperative in allowing us to have oversight of the design.”

The new community garden is scheduled to open in the spring of 2010 at the northern end of the park, near Albany St. The renovated park will also include new playgrounds and a dog run.

Construction is scheduled to start this week, after a group of local residents, including many parents, unsuccessfully tried to stop the work from going forward this fall. They were upset that the state’s plan includes the demolition of the existing wooden playground in the park and the removal of many mature trees. But changing the design now would have caused delays in the entire park project, so gardeners and others pushed for the plans to advance.

The gardeners, who must live in Battery Park City, look forward to more space and greater sun exposure at the new location.

“When these gardens were started the trees in the back were half their size” said Michael McCormack, president of the garden’s executive committee. The mature trees prevented the sun from shining directly on the plots at the rear of the garden, making them less desirable for some gardeners.

Gardening space is at a premium in Manhattan, but several Battery Park City families have found that the small plots of land provide an opportunity to teach children lessons of responsibility and respect for the environment. Harry Singh signed up for a garden four years ago because he thought it would be a good activity for his son Darshan. Now 6 years old, Darshan continues to look after the garden, by watering it at least twice a week. Singh is glad that the family tradition will be able to continue in a new space, but he had a concern about the move.

“Right now we have one of the best plots, it is very visible,” he said. “I don’t know what we will get at the new place.”

Volunteers from the Battery Park City Time Bank, and gardeners whose plots were not affected by the move helped those who needed a hand. The B.P.C Parks Conservancy assisted in transplanting the larger foliage.

Betsy McClelland’s plot was not affected by the move, but she decided to help out on Saturday anyway. In tow was her 6-year-old son Quinn Morgan. When asked about her feelings on the design for the park overall, she said that there are aspects of the design that she does not love but thinks that the temporary closing of the playground is not that much of a hardship. She said, the kids may feel differently. “The new play areas will be better for my son, now that he is getting older.”