Posts Tagged ‘FDR Drive’

A hidden magical garden behind the FDR Drive

November 28, 2016

Considering the density of its streets, New York is a city with a surprising number of hidden gardens: some in churchyards, others created on empty lots, and some designed to mask garages and other unpretty structures.

bellevuegardenpathssculpture

But few of these green spaces are as hard to get to as the quarter-acre oasis between the FDR Drive and First Avenue, behind the cluster of buildings that make up Bellevue Hospital Center.

bellevuegardenslatebenches

It’s the Bellevue Sobriety Garden, a strangely magical place that mixes sculpture, trees, flowers, mosaics, doll parts, cement, and foliage.

bellevuegardenmosaicname

Started by a Bellevue psychiatrist in 1989 and tended to by recovering addicts in the hospital’s Chemical Recovery Program, this isn’t your typical serene green space.

You won’t find many tourists or crowds here; it’s accessible via a lonely stretch of 26th Street beyond First Avenue or from an FDR Drive off ramp. And it’s not a landscaped masterpiece; grass can be patchy, and it has a wild, overgrown look to it.

bellevuegardentrellis

But that’s all part of its whimsical and imaginative charm, a garden straight out of an artist’s fairy tale. It’s not exactly a secret, but if you visit, you’ll feel like you stumbled into a New York you never knew.

The entrance, flanked by enormous statues and pieces of old buildings, welcomes visitors while encouraging them not to steal the veggies and fruits grown here in warmer months.

bellevuegardeneaglesculpture

Slender cobblestone paths take you past patches of flowers to benches, trellises, a wooden bridge, and a tiny gingerbread-like house. Along the way you’ll walk past mosaics and sculptures of sheep, dogs, pigs, and a snake.

bellevuegardenfacinghunter

Take a walk through it, and you’ll forget about the parking lot next door and the roaring traffic on the FDR Drive.

bellevuegardenpathhorsemosaic

Back in 2014, someone came in and vandalized the garden, defacing its statues. By the looks of things now, on a warmish autumn day, everything seems back in order—a peaceful and magical respite not very accessible to the average New Yorker.

The British soil that built part of the FDR Drive

October 31, 2011

Next time you’re stuck in traffic between 23rd Street and 34th Street on the FDR Drive, take a moment to consider where the land beneath you came from.

It wasn’t fill from digging the subways or skyscrapers—it was actually transported here all the way from England in the 1940s.

“During World War II, the Luftwaffe savagely bombed the city of Bristol, England, a major port for American supply ships,” wrote Michael Pollack in his FYI column in The New York Times in June 2009.

“After the supplies were unloaded, the American ships had no British goods to replace them on the return trip, and needed ballast for stability. So they loaded up rubble from Bristol’s bombed-out buildings.”

“Back in New York, the ships dumped the ballast from 23rd to 34th Street as landfill for what would become the East River Drive, now Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive.”

Though you won’t find it on any city road maps, the slight curve of the East River between these blocks is known as Bristol Basin (above).