The Riverside-Inwood Neighborhood Garden (RING)
Original Site: 1815 Riverside Drive, Manhattan 1984-1987
||The RING Garden began as a fleeting thought by Maggie Clarke
on the occasion of a community meeting set up by Assemblyman Brian Murtaugh in
late 1983 at the Episcopal church at Cumming and Seaman. His purpose in
arranging the meeting was to find out what the neighborhood wanted the newly
empty, rubble-strewn lot at 1815 Riverside Drive to become. He was
concerned it not become a dumping ground for cars and the like. The
building that had been there, another six-story building similar to the others
on the Drive, had been sinking differentially for years due to varying
thicknesses of peat soil and lack of modern foundation to the bedrock. The
failure of the landlord, Gabor, to secure funding to add four more floors to
this unstable structure and turn it into a co-op, resulted in the City
demolishing the building. Back to the meeting, Brian Murtaugh asked what
should happen to the lot. Maggie suggested that it become a flower garden.
A few others liked the idea, so the Assemblyman gathered all of them to the
front after the meeting and appointed Maggie and Susan Pond as co-chairs.
|In the first year, 1984, we asked the Inwood-Heights Parks Alliance to be our fiscal conduit, and we started affiliations with the Green Guerrillas, (who gave us bulbs, large boxes of soil), the NY Horticultural Society (who gave us shovels and hoses), and started looking for large quantities of fill. The lot was large - 100 feet on Riverside, and 175 feet on Payson. A few of us began planting in a few of the 17 large boxes of soil we got in the spring. Marigolds from seeds left the year before came up in the boxes, we planted gladiolas, and morning glories in 3 containers and that was the garden in 1984. We enlisted members and started collecting donations. We planted bulbs in the fall, which Maggie had sent from her trip to Holland. In December, 1984 Maggie located a firm, Corrino and Civetta, who agreed to bring 38 large dump trucks of fill from the Henry Hudson in the Bronx, and smooth it around the lot with a front-end loader. It ended up being about a foot deep. About that time Brian Murtaugh secured a year-to-year lease from the landlord.||
In winter, 1984 a vote was held of all those who had attended the 1983 meeting plus those who had volunteered or donated to the garden in 1984, to decide whether the garden should be operated as a typical "plots and veggies" community garden, or as a flowers and ornamentals botanical garden. The latter was chosen, and in 1985 RING volunteers and Andy Woods, with his science classes from Our Lady Queen of Martyrs School on Arden St., turned the lot into a garden. This involved designing the layout, salvaging bricks, hauling railroad ties up from the then unused west side rail line to hold in soil, creating a lawn with a schist rock border, and purchasing plants (or finding donated ones). See 1815 RSD Garden Photos.
From 1985 to 1987 the garden expanded and almost covered the large space, winning Mollie Parnis Dress Up your Neighborhood Awards (citywide contests) in 1985 and 1987, and awards on its flowers in contests sponsored by the New York Horticultural Society. The membership and volunteer ranks grew, we built a shed, and acquired many tools.
|But in late 1987 our luck ran out. The landlord decided to evict RING since he wanted to sell the property "unencumbered". RING didn't give up without a fight. We had a rally to show plans for moving to the Triangle, with three of our elected representatives and other neighborhood leaders speaking, but alas to no avail.|
The NYC Parks Dept. agreed to take 3 truckloads of RING's plants to two sites - in Inwood park and at the Van Cortlandt nursery, and on a snowy November 21, RING volunteers moved the last of the plants that we were going to save onto Parks trucks.
What happened next? RING moves to the Triangle
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