In writing about and photographing the gardens at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields and Jane Street, Justin Matthews touches on two gardens where I have worked as a volunteer with great joy and love for over 40 years. (See his article “Parks and Gardens of the West Village” in the June 2017 issue of WestView.)
When Jack Siman was head gardener of the St. Luke in the Fields Garden in the mid-1970s, he gave me a small black oak in a bucket to bring to Saugerties, New York. It now stands over 30 feet high. Justin is right on when he laments the somewhat severe curvilinear path in the Jane Street Garden, which replaced the more natural, stone meandering walk that I had laid. The new five-foot-wide smooth, steel-edged path was required by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, owner of the garden, as a condition for a new cast-iron picket fence to be installed later this year; it will be similar to the one at Abingdon Square. At least they compromised in accepting a stone dust, rather than asphalt, surface.
In the same issue of WestView, Alec Pruchnicki, in promoting affordable housing which everyone supports, falls into the same trap that the mayor has—that housing must replace community gardens, when both are needed. Seniors cannot normally walk five blocks and have no use for “handball courts, athletic fields, playgrounds” and basketball hoops. They take joy and pleasure in the lawns and flowers carefully developed and tended by volunteers over many years; such greenery would be destroyed by this either/or policy. Furthermore, zoning law requires usable and accessible open space to be adjacent to new housing. The City must pay fair land costs and not steal gardens from the communities.