News about the green projects in Hunters Point, Long Island City, Queens - New York

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Footbridge Garden 2012

Oh, what a journey it's been. In the last post - nearly a year ago - I made a to-do list for this blog. We were so busy watering and pulling weeds, it's taken a back seat. But not the plants. We are proud to be in our third year. Yes, we have LOTS of photos to post, however,  it's a problem we all have these days - sufficient time!

View from the footbridge looking down, where spare
tires were dumped among the liquor bottles.

Recapping the season: Many good things, new plants and mega growth - and two bad events. I'll post some pictures here to show how lovely things are in general, and then, a few showing the two downers. This year, no natural wind storms, no drunk garden vandals, but spray from the LIRR weed killers (who did not see our weathered garden signs), and a very sad visit from the DOT, who cut and pulled ALL the sunflowers along the parking side of the footbridge. They should have been heading for the underpass of the LIE. What shock to see this event, just as I came over the bridge August 28.  But our community is broad and strong and we're on a communication quest to make sure this does not happen again.
A late afternoon LIRR train rumbles by. 

And then the unfortunate: the latest was the DOT, who had 10 community service workers with big clippers. Luckily, many people saw them, and came screaming down to the street from the nearby buildings. But, it was too late. They had their hands on the potted plant when I arrived. 

Total destruction.

Look at our strong branching sunflowers - as they HAD been. This photo was taken three weeks
prior to the raid and they were probably 10 feet high. 

The other unfortunate event was mid July. Everything near the LIRR fence died overnight. Weed spray from the LIRR contracted service sprayed too wide, and it killed most plants within a foot of the fence. Later, the boss over on Borden said it was a mistake. He said they simply had not seen the signs. Many were from mammoth sunflower seeds from a friend in Colorado; they were about 5 feet at the time they were zapped, and had been babied indoors in the winter until they were planted.  They would have grown to 12 feet and made a spectacular show along the fence. So sad. Next year, bigger and better signs. 

At least 20 large sunflowers, as well as other perennials, took a hit.

And, in case you don't remember: here's what the footbridge looked like without a garden! What a change. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Getting Caught up

Wind takes one of the mammoth sunflowers, but that does not stop the bees.

There is so much to do, and so little blog time. So, my posts this season have been put off, photos saved for the rainy day when gardeners have a holiday. Let's just start with a TO-DO. Here's what I'll post about; at least I can feel I've made an attempt.

Future topics:

  • The single sunflower of summer 2010, the inspiration for our crop of 2011.
  • A recap of the year, 2010.
  • Winter in the garden, or a white out and little hope.
  • First bits of green showing in the spring, 2011.
  • Cutting weed trees, mending the fence, and expanding the garden to include the sunflower bed on the other side of the steps.
  • Tulips showing their faces.
  • First little flowers.
  • Losses and gains.
  • Friends of the garden, expanding. 
  • Progress with the water source and a look back at our limitations of 2010.
  • Thriving garden, expanding with unusual and beautiful plants. 
  • Sun flowers and more sunflowers.
  • Getting ready for the hurricane. 
  • Full bloom, and more additions. 
  • Looking toward fall.

I'll be back!

Friday, July 22, 2011

We're STILL growing

Welcome back to our garden - here at the foot of the steps of the footbridge over the Long Island Railway, a stone's throw from the Queens Midtown Tunnel.

After a long hiatus, I am returning with an update - the first since October 2010. Just as the garden began to fade into winter, I simply did not have the time to keep up. Now, there are so many things to report since the fall, it will be difficult togegin again.

I'll start here by showing where were were last year at this time. My how we've grown! Then, in the next weeks, I'll go back and pull together some of the highlights in photos from last fall, winter and early spring. It's been such a rewarding project, and our community grows along with it!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Footbridge Garden Surprise

Several days after unearthing that huge piece of slate, Miss V and I were digging at the same location when we hit something solid. We'd been through so many episodes of pulling out cobblestones and bottles, we were sure it was just more of the same. We approached the digging from various sides and just as I slid and almost fell, we realized it was something smooth. 

To our great surprise, it seemed as though the large piece of slate had reappeared - just about a foot deeper. We swept away the soil until the entire shape was revealed: narrower and a bit longer than the original one. But it was buried deep on one end. Optimistically we prepared a place for it near the other slate, with hopes of enlarging our patio. Now, all we needed was to assemble another team of strong men.

October 1st was a sparkling day, and we were lucky to find two new friends of the garden, willing and able to help us. Had it not been for the persistence of Mr. C and Mr. R, this second piece never would have been moved. Being a Saturday, most businesses were closed, and we lacked a pick axe or crowbar.  We were left to improvise.  First we had to analyze the setting, remove more dirt. Next, a chain, a lock, a board, and eventually - two more helpers for the final move out of the hole. In all, it took 1.5  hours to make it happen. Oh, thank you Mr. C and Mr. R!!

click photo to enlarge

But, it got me to thinking, where did these pieces come from? Our garden friend, Mr. H, suggested they were probably part of the legacy of NYC sidewalks, dumped there when urban renewal required a cement sidewalk be put in. Certainly one sees a few pieces of slate or bluestone here and there in some areas of the city - but now - with my curiosity whetted,  I started looking into the subject. 

There were times when these slate and bluestone walks graced our old cities, as described here in the NYTimes in 1994. We've lost most of them. But, I found there is a Slate Museum in upstate New York! And then, by chance, I just saw one in Providence, R.I: the walk in front of the First Baptist Church, built in 1775. 

I wonder what journey our slate took, who cut it, and in what quarry it originated? And, given what our two teams went throughout to unearth those pieces, I try to imagine the truck that surely backed into what is now the garden, and dumped those heavy pieces some years ago. 

left: men cutting slate, borrowed
from the Slate Valley Museum, Granville, NY

right: slate walk, First Baptist Church,
Providence RI, built in 1775. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Slate Blues

All of us who've been involved in the planting of The Footbridge Garden have concentrated on the front sections, because there was a nasty piece of slate wedged in packed dirt by the supports for the footbridge. It was large, but I always hoped this piece could be moved, so we renew the soil, and put in a focus plant and a trellis with climbing vines.

But, how to move the slate? Miss V and I had dug around it, and made a place for the slate to be moved, but we could not even budge it. We needed help.

So, one day, our friend Mr. H offered, and brought along Mr. J. for some added muscle. After a few tries, we called for more strength.  When Mr. D. J arrived, it suddenly seemed possible. There was some huffing and puffing, and then, it was in place moved directly under steps for a 'patio'. What a great feeling! Thanks, team!

Then, I got to work connecting the path to the newly positioned slate with some makeshift steps.  At Home Depot I found some 6" new slate tiles (way too blue, in my opinion), but I put those in temporarily to see if they would work. And in the corner, I planted a little helleborus - an evergreen perennial that actually starts blooming in winter!  This should brighten the winter months, and add some interest here all year long.

However, the steps have now undergone a change since these photos: I guess someone else either thought those tiles too blue for the slate, or desired them for their own space - so four of them disappeared a few days later. Hmmm. Not so nice, even if they were only 87 cents each.

Oh well, I was not wholly satisfied with the color and newness of them. It's a work in progress here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Footbridge Garden in September

See how far we've come? It's amazing!

Visitors to the garden seem to be a regular thing now, and if I have my camera, they usually find a place on the path to pose. It all starts with their interest and questions about the plants, the names of flowers, which ones will winter over, and so on. It doesn't take long for me to ask for a photo op.

In early September I was honored by a visit from Mr. Kenton, the Constituent Liaison of Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. We'd spoken several times, when I was trying to get to the bottom of who actually owns (pays taxes) on the land. The answer is the City/MTA, but it appeared to be untended - probably because it's such a strange shape in an odd location. Sanitation would come by periodically and haul off the tires and debris tossed there on a regular basis. Now, let's hope they don't confuse Little Zebra grass with Ragweed!

 Mr. Kenton was most curious about the garden project, as his office is very interested in 'green' initiatives.  So, I was really happy when he made his way over the bridge one Friday evening at the end of the day, when the light is lovely and those who work in the area - and take the 7 train -  are going over the bridge and looking down on the garden. I only wish he could have seen it before.

Clockwise in the photo below, other friends are:  Mr. H, a supportive garden friend with lots of positive input; Miss K and Miss B; Miss E and Mr. C; Mr. N and Mr. J (helpers with the watering barrel); Mr. F and Miss G (regulars!); and Mr. C and Miss K - frequent visitor and helper.

Next entry: a gigantic piece of slate is removed from its dumping ground in the back of the garden, to make way for more green.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Cedar grows in Hunters Point

A trip to Home Depot with Mr. S. (garden charter member and cattus protonus)  resulted in the first evergreen for the Footbridge Garden. How exciting! But now, to prepare the soil. 

Thank goodness for the non-stop help of Mr. B a few days later, we got the twice-the-rootball-sized hole dug. It was another archeological experience, with the unearthing of two intact vodka bottles and two extremely heavy 19th C granite cobble stones. I wondered, just HOW heavy? But, it made making the hole much easier as each foreign object was tugged out of the way. Then, we filled in the surrounding area around root ball with the organic soil from a bag, mixed with the composted manure. 

Finally it was time to stand back and admire it, AND to water, of course.  The label says it could reach 15 feet high, so we made sure to set it so it would not bump into the stairs, and in a spot where it will eventually cover up the stair support - a distracting eyesore.

Next, we'll have to tackle the back part of the garden before the fall sets in. Our visitors and friends continue to grow in number, just as the plants are really beginning to take hold. This weekend, the Footbridge Garden turns four months old. Happy first summer.