A visitor or even long time resident may be puzzled by the reason for nursery or garden centers in Manhattan or for gardening supplies in hardware stores. One of the secrets of New York City, particularly Manhattan, is that there is a lot more green than one might imagine. This world will rarely be seen unless one has access to a view.
The impression one might get while walking the streets is that the city is a fusing of buildings. The Concrete Jungle is an apt description for much of Midtown Manhattan and the Financial District, where steel, glass and concrete is the norm. Any green space is limited and in plain view such as pocket parks, atria etc.
However, in residential neighborhoods, particularly those dominated with rowhouses such as the Village and Chelsea, gardens spaces are located behind every house. These backyard gardens abut each other, often resulting in unbroken green space for an entire city block from avenue to avenue. The best way to see this is using the satellite view of an online search engine's mapping feature. Locate a neighborhood such as Greenwich Village (try zipcode 10011, e.g.), zoom in and pan around. You will see a surprising amount of green space. Note the interior garden spaces behind the buildings.
The lush green oasis in today's photo is a rare view of the communal greenspace behind the Macdougal-Sullivan Garden District. From the website of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation:
This small enclave planned around a private central garden became a prototype for related developments of the 1920s. In 1920 the Hearth and Home Corporation purchased 22 deteriorated Greek Revival Row Houses, built between 1844 and 1850. It commissioned a rehabilitation from the architects Francis Y. Joannes and Maxwell Hyde who removed the stoops and gave the two street facades a Colonial Revival appearance, as well as communal backyards.
The development served as a model for several other redevelopment projects in the South Village in the 1920’s and 30’s, where older buildings (often tenements) were joined together to create communal spaces and more “modern” appearances for their buildings. This was in many ways reflective of the changes in the neighborhood in the inter-war years: foreign immigration had subsided, but the area was increasingly of interest to Americans of a creative or bohemian bent.
Older housing, such as rowhouses and tenements were considered by some obsolete. However, this communal style of redevelopment reflected a valuing of the neighborhood’s quaint features, even as landlords and new residents sought modern amenities and collectively enjoyed light, air, and open space.
These gardens are not open to the public, so unless you have the rare privilege to know a resident, you will have to enjoy these photos :)