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“No longer shall the public have to gaze upon these unauthorized plants,” an official proclaimed.

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This corner lot has been hidden behind a plywood fence painted blue and left to go wild for the past four years. Weed trees and grasses have sprung up through the rubble of whatever had been there.

In an alternate version of the city, the public and the developers agree that this rare bit of open space so near the Empire State Building should be turned into a park. “Open public spaces are more important than squeezing every bit of profit out of an investment,” the developer said. “The well-being of the neighborhood’s inhabitants and workers make it well worth taking a loss.”

A civic group agreed to develop the park completely on the donations and labor of volunteers. The park’s design, incorporating only indigenous plants and materials, has already been approved by the mayor’s office.

 

Last post on the greenhouse for awhile. If it’s still there, I’ll go back in the fall and again in winter and again in spring until they tear it down. Here is the wide view, the three big greenhouses stacked side by side, maybe a football field in length.

It leaves me wondering about a few things I could easily find out. Who mows the area around it? Something’s been planted in neat, organized rows along the road and I wonder about that. It’s  neglected and tended, in disrepair but seemingly unvandalized, overrun by a collection of nature that isn’t all that natural. Why not just leave it alone and see what happens?

My dad, 82, lives just a few miles from this place. I live in New York, about two hours away.When he was my age, he had a place with a boat on Great Bay in New Jersey he’d go weekends during the summer with Janet, his second wife. I’m convinced that I brought my second wife there once with the kids about a dozen years ago, just before he sold it. The boat was already gone, but the dock was still there and anyone who’s ever been there could instantly conjure the smell of the salt marshes and the light just before sunset. I’m the only one with that memory and I can’t say with any certainty that it happened.

 

“There was a factory
Now there are mountains and rivers
you got it, you got it

“We caught a rattlesnake
Now we got something for dinner
we got it, we got it

“There was a shopping mall
Now it’s all covered with flowers
you’ve got it, you’ve got it

“If this is paradise
I wish I had a lawnmower
you’ve got it, you’ve got it

“This used to be real estate
Now it’s only fields and trees
Where, where is the town
Now, it’s nothing but flowers”

Nothing but Flowers, The Talking Heads

We return to the greenhouse, my favorite place on earth after Dog Beach. What little I remember of trees tells me that the fast-growing tree below, the one so anxious for light and air it shattered a glass pane is either Juglans nigra (black walnut) or Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven).

Juglans is a native of North America, once common to the forests of the northeast. Here’s what Edward Sibley Barnard says in New York City Trees: A Field Guide for the Metropolitan Area (Columbia University Press):

“Intolerant of shade, the black walnut secures its ecological niche by producing substances that retard the development of other trees around it. The black walnut was once plentiful in the eastern United States, but almost all the great old-growth forests are gone now, felled by lumberman seeking America’s finest cabinetry wood. ”

You might find this tree for sale in a nursery.

The other option, Ailanthus, is a weed tree imported from Asia either unwittingly or on purpose. It does not appear in Barnard’s guide, although you will find it everywhere, growing through cracks in sidewalk or old buildings. If you break a branch or a leaf, tree of heaven oozes a milky white stinky sap. The tree “suckers,” meaning that it’s roots shoot out sideways underground. If you cut down the tree or if the trunk is merely damaged, another will soon pop up nearby from the root system.

The tree above could very well be Ailanthus, on its quest to choke out all other plant life.

At a subway stop last November… 42nd Street maybe? Part of the backlog.

A woman records the moment.

Later that day, maple leaves float in a fountain in Bryant Park.

Meanwhile far away in another part of town…

 

 

St. Brigid’s Church, the oldest Keely church still standing in the US, has been closed since 2001. The Committee to Save St. Brigid’s Church has a website describing the condition of the church, photos of the interior, and their efforts to raise funds and restore the building.

The view across from Avenue B. Windows boarded, garbage accumulating on the steps.

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A pawlonia tree has taken root in a crack in the base of the building. These fast growing trees do a lot of damage, widening cracks, allowing more moisture to creep in.

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The first two photos should be one long panorama, but I couldn’t get them to stitch together properly. In the first shot, one of the doorways is crooked – there wasn’t an earthquake, I just lined things up crookedly.

wvill1

wvill2

This DVD store is NOT closed. It just looks that way. NOT Closed. Still Open. You can buy DVDs there. I think you can sell them or rent them too. Not closed. Open.

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Finally, this image, a panorama of a section of the garden at St. Luke’s of the Fields on Hudson Ave. I know – it’s too long and narrow to really see any detail from this photo. If you’re in the neighborhood and like trees, flowers, birds, and butterflies, pop in for a visit. There are some fantastic and uncommon or NYC trees there, like a Dawn Redwood and what I think is a Crape Myrtle.

stlukechurch

January 2019
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