Posts Tagged ‘Community Gardens NYC’

The blissful Upper West Side garden hiding on top of a condo garage

August 1, 2022

Neighborhood gardens planted on vacant lots and between buildings are magical places. Walking around the city, I’ve stumbled upon many of these, each with their own enchanting landscape and walkways, sitting areas, and koi ponds.

The Lotus Garden, on 97th Street between Broadway and West End Avenue on the Upper West Side, has these delights as well. What sets this lovely green space apart, however, is that you can’t really stumble upon it from the sidewalk.

This tranquil garden is up a tall staircase and spread out over the garage roof of a luxury condo residence, the Columbia. If you’re not looking for it, you might walk right past—which strangely makes the Lotus Garden more appealing, as if it’s a secret only a few insiders know about.

So how did a 7,000 square foot garden end up on top of the garage? Before the condo and garage were built, volunteer neighborhood gardeners had turned what was an empty lot (once home to two historic movie theaters torn down in the 1970s) into a community garden.

In 1981, developer William Zeckendorf bought the vacant lot, according to a 1984 New York Times piece. His intention was to build a luxury condominium, which met with some neighborhood opposition. After meeting with the local gardeners, he went ahead with his plans and also agreed to spread soil on top of the garage and provide drainage.

Volunteer gardeners then took over. They built “winding paths, installed two fish ponds, and planted fruit trees and flowering shrubs,” the garden’s website states. “At last in the spring of 1983, a group of local residents, including new residents of the Columbia, began to plant flowers and herbs beneath the north facing windows of the Columbia’s tower.”  

The Lotus Garden was born—a hiding-in-plain-site respite from the scorched streets of the Upper West Side in the summer.