Background and History
The Riverside-Inwood Neighborhood Gardens (RING) was established in 1984 and is
affiliated with the Inwood-Heights Parks Alliance (IHPA, a 501(c)(3) organization, and
RING's fiscal agent). By 1985 neighborhood volunteers turned a rubble-strewn lot at 1815
Riverside in the Inwood Section of Upper Manhattan, New York City, into an award-winning
flower and ornamentals garden. RING won Mollie Parnis "Dress Up Your
Neighborhood" contests in 1985 and 1987, and won numerous awards for flower
arrangements in New York Horticultural Society competitions. After three years the
property was sold, and in 1990, with the help of NYC Parks Department, Councilmember
Michels, Assemblymember Murtaugh, and an endowment from the Trust for Public Land, the
RING garden was reestablished at the triangle at the confluence of Riverside Dr., Dyckman
St., Broadway, and Seaman Ave in the Inwood section of upper Manhattan. RING was
incorporated in 1990, when it began its second community garden in Inwood. The new garden,
based on the same design principles as the original, has continued to win awards for
beauty, including city-wide Mollie Parnis Contests in 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997, and
1998 and the National Gardening Association award in 1992.
Now that the triangle garden is established, RING's objectives are:
- to educate neighborhood adults and children in the arts and science of
horticulture, aquaculture, butterfly habitat, and composting, and enhance their
appreciation of the environment with hands-on experience,
- to increase our role as a focus for community involvement by including more
members of the community. Enjoyment of the garden, care and cultivation of plants by
volunteers, both in the garden and elsewhere in the community are some of the vehicles for
- to improve the quality of life for neighborhood residents and businesses by
maintaining and enhancing the garden and its immediate surroundings.
Community volunteers of all ages and interests participate in a variety of activities.
These include planting of annuals and spring bulbs, dividing perennials, pruning shrubs
and trees, erosion control, landscaping, weeding, mulching, watering, vermin control,
fertilizing, lawn care, and pond care among others. With our compost bins, we have been
producing new organic-rich soil using our own yard waste and residential food waste.
Recent special projects in the garden have included a fish pond ecosystem with a
solar-powered waterfall and self-contained stream. Students from Our Lady Queen of Martyrs
School help us plant and maintain beds of annual flowers. Well over 100 in the school's
science classes also assist in keeping the garden well maintained, removing spent annuals,
and planting many daffodils and other bulbs in the fall.
Nongardening volunteers plan events, garden tours, and plant sales, write and distribute
newsletters and volunteer alerts, coordinate volunteering, make signage for the garden,
maintain a database of volunteers and members, procure supplies, and raise funds. Garden
sitters volunteer simply by opening the gates and minding the garden.
Each year RING holds several major events to draw neighborhood residents to the
Our semi-annual Yard Sales, held in conjunction with the spring and fall festivals,
have become popular in the neighborhood, and provide residents with the opportunity to
sell used housewares and clothing, for example, for the benefit of themselves and RING.
The Spring festival involves neighborhood adults and children in the planting of 30
flats of flower seedlings
The Fall Festival involves them in the potting and sale of the matured plants for
the benefit of the garden.
In 1995 RING started its Butterfly Festival, held the last week of July or the first
weekend in August. In 1996, seven species of butterflies, including three kinds of
swallowtail, monarchs, painted ladies, and others graced the four butterfly bushes.
In 1997 RING first offered weekly, free gardening workshops in spring, beginning in
In 2001 RING held its first curated Art Show. There were 18 artists, 14 from
Inwood with each artist showing from one to 3 works displayed amongst the flowers.
At least 150 attended the show.
Also in 2001, RING hosted a performance by the Inwood Shakespeare Festival, followed
by a classical guitar concert.
As one of the only (if not the only) community garden in Inwood with a school
educational program, RING serves to provide a unique educational opportunity for the youth
of this inner city neighborhood with a sense of respect for plants, wildlife (pond and
butterfly ecosystems, and nesting robins), and the natural environment. Since 1985 RING
has had a fruitful relationship with Our Lady Queen of Martyrs school on nearby Arden
Street. Each year science classes from grades 6 - 8 help maintain the garden, start annual
plants indoors, plant spring bulbs, remove organic materials for composting at the school,
care for pond fish (both during the winter when they are housed at the school, and in the
warmer months, by assisting in pond cleaning), and assist RING with major garden projects
and fundraising events.
Because of RING's central location near bus and subway lines, hundreds, if not thousands,
of commuters and other passersby enjoy RING on a daily basis. As the largest and most
diverse viewing garden in Inwood, RING serves to improve the quality of life in a
challenging neighborhood. The garden serves as a pleasant meeting place for many residents
in this diverse community. The 80-100 school children benefit from repeated exposure to
the dynamics of a changing garden environment as the seasons change. Many other residents
enjoy RING sitting on the benches inside and outside the garden. Our membership and
volunteer base of roughly 150 can receive keys to the garden, so that it may be open to
the public more frequently.