1974 – 1981
The Corner Garden
In 1974, on a vacant lot at the southwest corner of LaGuardia Place & West 3d Street, a loosely formed group of Village residents began to garden.
In the summer of 1980, the land was sold for development. The Corner Garden, as it was known, ended with the arrival of a bulldozer.
LaGuardia Corner Gardens
In the spring of 1981, several of the gardeners, led by Cheryl Small, Norma Turrill, Susan Kocki, Gean Mathwig, David Blake, Sandy Klabunde, and others, formed LaGuardia Corner Gardens, Inc., as a 501(3)(c) non-profit corporation.
The gardeners negotiated with NYC’s GreenThumb program and Community Board 2 to move the garden to barren land a block south, on city property adjacent to a supermarket.
After many Community Board meetings and hearings, and over some opposition but with the overwhelming support of the majority of local residents, the garden obtained approval to develop the space as a garden.
1981 was spent getting estimates for a fence, planning a water system, laying out plots, and raising money. The perimeter flower border and the pathway around the garden were negotiated with GreenThumb and the Parks Committee of CB2, chaired by Anthony Dapolito.
That summer the top soil from the West 3d Street garden was moved, by court order, to the new site.
1982 – 2013
The Work Begins
By May 1982, the garden had an eight-foot high chain link fence. The garden members set aside a weekend to lay out the garden and spread the soil.
Armed with sifters and wheelbarrows, the gardeners spread the dirt and removed the rubble, which was mostly broken bricks left over from the tenements that had stood on the site. Strings were laid out and plots were assigned. Some used the rubble for their pathways. A wood shed was built to house the tools. And the planting began. Gean Mathwig was the first gardener to plant her plot.
In the spring of 1983, garden members installed boards between the plots. In the summer, Jeffrey Rowland and others broke up the bricks for the perimeter path bed.
The Water System
Water was siphoned from a barrel filled from a fire hydrant outside the entrance to the garden. David Dorfman and Jeffrey Rowland then built an above-ground water system from PVC pipes. They connected the pipes to the hydrant with a hose, which was later suspended overhead to make it semi-permanent. Estimates were sought for a permanent connection to the water.
During the summer members of the garden and Ken Green, Director of GreenThumb, held a party to celebrate the garden’s progress.
In April 1985 an underground connection to the water supply was installed, making the garden self-sufficient.
2014 to Present
Improvements & Repairs
The garden has celebrated its Silver Jubilee. It has gone through several sheds and more than a few tools. The chain link around the north garden fence has been replaced. White marble chips were added to the path around the perimeter of the garden. And many of the boards between the plots have been replaced.
The Future of LaGuardia Corner Gardens
LaGuardia Corner Gardens is on land owned by the NYC Dept. of Transportation. LCG’s members have sought to transfer the site to the NYC Dept. of Parks in order to protect the garden from development. Both Community Board 2 and our NYC Council Member support the transfer. So why hasn’t it happened? NYU has blocked the transfer.
NYU owns the one-story supermarket adjacent to the garden, as well as the superblock comprising the Silver Towers. NYU has offered the supermarket site to the City for a public school. If the City decides not to build a school there, NYU will build on the site. A taller, bulkier building would block the sun needed to grow flowers — assuming the plants can be rescued during the multi-year construction. To donate online, click Donate.