When spring arrives, our wonderful neighborhoods are alive with activity. Many more people are out and about, enjoying the unique beauty of our slice of the big city, where you can see the blue sky and the greenery of gardens, trees and flowers.
The multitude of green spaces in our neighborhoods beckon at these times. And while the more prominent parks like Hudson and East River, Washington and Tompkins Squares are always a joy and delight to visit, there are some exquisite less well-travelled but enticing spots that offer respite from the madding crowds. Here are but a few of those special places.
Sir Winston Churchill Square
This peaceful garden and sitting area borders Downing Street and the west side of Sixth Avenue. It was named by the NYC Parks Department in honor of British Prime Minister Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874-1965), whose official residence, located at 10 Downing Street in London, shares the name of one of the streets bordering this square. Churchill’s speeches from his official residence at London’s 10 Downing Street inspired the world during some of the twentieth century’s darkest hours of World War II. Did you know that he is one of only three people made an honorary citizen of the United States by Congress? (The others are Raoul Wallenberg and the Marquis de Lafayette, the later of whom spent some time in our neighborhoods).
NYC Parks purchased this .05-acre parcel of land in 1943. The sitting area, designed by George Vellonakis, was rebuilt from 1998 to 1999 to incorporate garden spaces, a pedestal mounted armillary, and a decorative, gated iron fence. The Bedford Downing Block Association continues to be an important force behind the maintenance and upkeep of Churchill Square, ensuring that it remains the peaceful oasis that it is now for years to come.
On June 17, 2013, Village Preservation awarded Sir Winston Churchill Square with one of its coveted Village Awards! By the way, the nominations for this year’s awards have been extended until today! Please submit your nomination for someone or somewhere in our neighborhoods that make a big difference in our lives!
Albert’s Garden is a lovely little oasis at 16 East 2nd Street, and is one of the 39 (yes, 39!) community gardens found within the modest confines of the East Village. Per the garden’s website, its sole purpose is “to provide a quiet respite for the general public in order to foster an appreciation of and education about the natural environment along with science and the arts.”
A couple of things are interesting to note about the garden. The stone wall in the back is connected to the New York Marble Cemetery. Along the side wall of the garden is where photographer Roberta Bayley snapped her famous photograph of The Ramones which became the cover of their first album. The image was taken here as Joey Ramone lived for a time at 6 East 2nd Street and it was around the corner from CBGB, their second home. The garden’s volunteers sometimes host jazz nights and poetry readings in the garden. Who knows? You might discover some unknown but soon to be famous artist when visiting!
6BC Botanical Garden
The East Village is rife with community gardens (you can visit some of them virtually through our very popular East Village Building Blocks!) and 6BC, named for its location on East 6th Street between Avenues B and C, is one of the most famous. The nearly 40-year-old garden has evolved from a place where locals tended small plots to a verdant space dedicated to biodiversity and horticulture education. The lush, otherworldly green speace includes a small fish pond, a meandering brick path, and a pergola and trellis wrapped in blooming vines. It’s generally open on weekends from noon to 6 p.m. and weekdays after 6 p.m.
The Gardens at St. Luke’s in the Fields
The Gardens at St. Luke’s in the Fields really do seem to be a secret hideaway place. High brick walls surround the perimeter of the garden which provide a warm micro-climate, allowing a wide variety of flora and fauna to flourish. The nearly two-thirds acre garden has walkways, lawns and a fine collection of garden standards, rare hybrids, and native American plantings. The green space provides a small but important way-station for migrating birds and butterflies in the spring and fall seasons. Over 100 species of birds and 24 types of moths and butterflies have been recorded over the years.
It is interesting to note that the first verifiable planting in the Gardens at St. Luke’s was in 1842: it was a tiny slip taken from England’s famous Glastonbury thorn. The thorn survived until 1990, when a windstorm took it down. Its progeny lives on in the North garden.
We hope you’ll visit one of the many gorgeous respites our neighborhoods have to offer on this, the first full day of spring, or any day of the year. You will be so happy you did!