A Garden Grows Uptown

By Ana Sofia Huertas

If you’re around Juan Pablo Duarte Square at the corner of 169th street and Broadway, take a moment to stop and smell the flowers. Nearby neighbors from the Washington Heights Gardening Crew (WHGC), NYC Parks and the Department of Parks and Recreation will thank you.

Volunteers young and old devoted their Saturday morning to weed out entire triangle and tree pits, cut down tree limbs, remove old wires near trees, spread mulch throughout trees, plant perennials and annuals, hang two nesting boxes and meet new neighbors.

According to WHGC member Mary Moran, the green square has come a long way since its dirt filled days in the 90’s. It wasn’t until 1996 when local residents decided to take ownership of their street corners and dress them up.

As cars zipped up and down Broadway, students and families from PS 8 and PS 128, accompanied by Coach Crenshaw, grabbed shovels and climbed over fenced in trees in the square to plant with new soil and wrap tulip leaves for a natural extraction.

On the northeast corner across from the busy square, a longtime resident over 70 years wise walked about the tree-lined sidewalk planting flowers, “I come every year and it’s always nice to see children helping to keep their neighborhood looking wonderful.”

NYC Park Day takes place twice a year in the Fall and Spring with the help of neighbors, local merchants, and NYC Parks Department.

For tree and fence upkeep, the Washington Heights Gardening Crew will host its next fundraiser on Saturday, June 11th (rain date Sunday June 12th).  “Our mission is to properly fence in these street trees to preserve them, indirectly increasing the beauty of our neighborhood.  Unfortunately the price of steel keeps going up and now a fence for a single street tree costs $850,” says Dana Hockenbury, President of WHGC looking to raise at least enough to cover one tree fence.

Those interested in joining the fundraising event can bring donations to the Juan Pablo Duarte triangle that day. In the past, items for sale included music, jewelry, used clothing, glassware, books, etc. Volunteers are encouraged to engage with neighbors and devote not only their sellable items but their time to sell their items to the public.

To schedule a donation pick-up, to become a member, or for more information on the Washington Heights Gardening Crew contact Dana Hockenbury at (646) 334-1713 or email [email protected]

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  • Kate
    June 15, 2011 at 11:07 am

    The Washington Heights Gardening Crew is great! They have been working on the square for many years and have made a significant difference.

    The event referred to in the article is called It’s My Park Day and is coordinated by Partnerships for Parks. For more information about this activity, please go to our website http://www.partnershipsforparks.org.

  • Greta Carlton
    June 21, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    So great to have the kids help out! I know you are doing a wonderful job. Keep up the good works, Dana!