New York City parks beckon, emerging during the pandemic spring

Tulips in bloom at Jefferson Market Garden naturally attract children.
Tulips in bloom at Jefferson Market Garden naturally attract children.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

The numbers of those vaccinated are increasing and warmish weather offers safer outdoor social conditions, so for New Yorkers who live in the confines of apartments almost bear-like in their caves, this spring brings an awakening.  

Hunkered down, quarantined, socially distanced, it’s been as if a long—a year-long—hibernation. 

This past weekend city denizens eagerly took to New York parks as early blossoms beckon and with yet many plants soon to bloom.  The parks truly embody that spring is here. 

Spring Park Cleaning, an initiative from Corey Johnson’s office with support from Parks and Sanitation, encouraged New Yorkers to help with planting and sprucing up local playgrounds and parks. 

To this end, more than a dozen volunteers showed up at Soho’s Vesuvio Playground to dig in and feel a bit of nature.

Not afraid to get into the dirt, Chris Marte —who happens to be running for City Council—lends a weeding hand at Vesuvio Playground. Parks Gardener Tyson Landers is hard at work, too.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Repainting tables and benches on Sunday, the community sprucing up neighborhood parks like this one on Thompson and Spring.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Thompson Street resident digs in while planting in Vesuvio Playground.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
The square plot of earth under the flagpole in Vesuvio Playground offers this concrete playground a bit of greenery and flora.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Neighbors helping each other, this East Villager came to Soho to help with the plantings in Vesuvio Playground.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
This Sullivan street teen, recruited by her mom, doesn’t mind “getting down” to the roots, and planting at Vesuvio Playgrounds community dig-in day.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)

On their knees, hands in the square lot of dirt under the flagpole, these weekend gardeners planted flats of perennials: Anchillea—“Summer Berries” and “Little Susie”,  Coreopsis— “Double Sun”  and “Angelina”, and the Sedum creeping ground cover.  

Thompson Street neighbor Linda Gross read about the volunteer afternoon effort in the Nextdoor blog, others were informed by Corey Johnson’s newsletter. An enthusiastic mother/daughter team lives on Sullivan Street and one woman came from East Village to get her hands dirty. 

Parks Department gardener Tyson Landers who works out of Washington Square Park and the neighborhood’s 12-15 satellite gardens is forever grateful for the volunteers’ efforts. “I’d spend a whole day doing (these plantings),” he says. “I wish there were more of these volunteer days.”

Also, the playground’s picnic tables and benches received new coats of Parks Department green paint—a ubiquitous “wet paint” sign warding off the public. 

Meanwhile not too far away, at 6th Ave. and Prince St., a smaller and more local team tidied up the triangle beauty Father Fagan Park.  

A locked “box/shed” on site at Father Fagan Park holds all the tools needed to keep up the park where volunteers water and otherwise maintain during the whole year.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
The Crown Imperial Red (Fritillaria imp. Rubra Maxima) one of the amazingly beautiful flowers in bloom in Father Fagan Park, 6th Ave. and Prince St.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Al Di Raffaele’s apartment looks over Father Fagan Park, which he is completely committed to. He happily accepts the moniker of “tree hugger”.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Father Fagan Park, a half-block triangular plaza with benches, named for a priest who died saving others in a 1938 fire. A sight for a neighborhood with a dearth of greenery.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Volunteers clean and spruce up the floral triangle of Father Fagan Park during Spring Park Cleaning day, this past Sunday.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)

Al Di Raffaele’s apartment across 6th Ave. overlooks the Park.  In a neighborhood with a dearth of greenery, along with others equally committed, he’s taken a very personal involvement in this triangle of vegetation.  

“My love for Father Fagan Square Park started years ago when I learned about the man himself and had the sign created stating his life story,” says Di Raffaele. “I cleaned the park with my neighbors,” he proudly says.

Across 6th Ave., more neighbors and far-flung volunteers, one from Greenpoint, another from Boerum Hill, raked, pruned and spruced up, the sliver garden that is Charleton Plaza. 

Sunday also invited those who just sought the diversion and pleasure of visiting other local parks and gardens, including Jefferson Market Garden. 

Jefferson Market’s pond—with fish and a turtle—is a magnet for children.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Spring blossoms in Jefferson Market Garden offer inspiration for watercolors.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Jefferson Market Garden, always an inspiration for artists.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
The joyous colors are signs of Spring in Jefferson Market Garden.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)

Enjoying the colors, walking, reading, painting, and even hearing music made up the breadth of activities enjoyed as New Yorkers emerge from the long dormancy. 

For those seeking a larger venue, Brooklyn Botanical Garden provides more roaming spaces; their Spring program of outdoor blossoms and performances attracts a following.  Be aware! To keep the numbers in the Garden at a socially distanced limitation, early advance tickets and reservations are required to enjoy the great beauty of what the Garden offers the public. 

The time is now to still carefully come out of our caves. 

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