|Garden of Hope - Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Photo: Courtesy NYRP.|
Architectural Digest, June 2014
When Bette Midler moved to New York from Los Angeles in 1995, she was horrified by the litter strewn across the landscape. The singer and actress not only launched a one-woman pickup operation, but also founded the enormously successful New York Restoration Project (NYRP) to revitalize neglected green spaces. Just two decades later, NYRP has acquired 52 community gardens in underserved communities across the five boroughs and redesigned nearly half of them, enlisting residents in all phases of the work, from design to ongoing maintenance.
In addition to gardens, NYRP has expanded its mission to include planting more than 840,000 trees in partnership with the city, with a goal of one million by 2015. The nonprofit also teamed up with Urban Air Foundation, TEN Arquitectos, and Buro Happold to design low-cost kits for modular casitas that can serve as sun- and rainproof gathering spots and also, by way of roof-mounted photovoltaic energy collectors, provide off-the-grid community nodes where neighbors can charge phones in the wake of a blackout. And, with support from the Thompson Family Foundation and innovative porous design by architectural firm Bade Stageberg Cox, NYRP will build a boat storage facility and an outdoor classroom and science cove along the Harlem River that will host environmental-education classes. Beginning this June, it will launch a green-space takeover of an entire neighborhood, revitalizing everything from its parks and schoolyards to street trees and median strips.
“We want to build stronger communities,” says NYRP executive director Deborah Marton, “and public open spaces are places where people can encounter each other in ways that can do that.” NYRP’s gardens, which range in size from 2,000 to 15,000 square feet, are the perfect low-stakes opportunity, she says. “It’s not the workplace; it’s just a place of beauty and pleasure. You go there to plant some stuff, grow some stuff, and get to know your neighbors.”
Click here to see amazing before-and-after shots of NYRP’s renovations of eight community gardens.