Jane Street Garden Fence Finally Installed: Fence Me In (Not Out)

OF ACCESSIBILITY: A new steel picket
fence surrounds Jane Street Garden. Photo
by Barry Benepe.

Who remembers the old cowboy ballad, Don’t Fence Me In? Thanks to a generous grant provided to the Parks Department by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson at the request of the Jane Street Block Association, the high rickety chain-link fence has been replaced by an attractive lower steel picket fence similar to the one surrounding Abingdon Square Park. Now one can walk around the garden and look at it at all times of the day.
Getting into the garden is another matter. It will be open only 52 days a year during non-winter daylight hours if and when volunteers are available to unlock and supervise its use, whereas Abingdon Square Park will be open every day of the year. Moreover, at the Park Commissioner’s insistence, the Jane Street entrance has been eliminated, leaving only the new corner entrance to make it more accessible to passing foot traffic on Eighth Avenue. The fence, with its locked corner gate, should provide an attractive invitation, not a barrier to entry.
The garden has always been a much beloved quiet landscaped retreat for those who want to relax in the sun on comfortable wooden benches surrounded by a rich bower of flowers, shrubs, flowering trees and birds frolicking at the birdbath. It was originally built by Bill Bowser and the West Village Committee with the help of Jane Street residents in the early 1970s. The Jane Street Block Association played an active role in the garden’s early years, building a wind mill which stood at the corner and planting a Holland Elm on the sidewalk—perhaps the only one in the city—which still stands proud and tall.
Community gardens play essential roles in their neighborhoods. They tend to be fragile and require considerable commitment from residents to care for them.
The Elizabeth Street Garden on the Lower East Side is exceptional and well-loved; but it is threatened by the city’s proposal to rip it up to build an “affordable” apartment building.
At least the Jane Street Garden has a more certain future. Its accessibility, however, will depend on the availability of volunteers to supervise it.
—Barry Benepe

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