A local park has been redone to be more green and friendly — a Manhattan tale

Many can’t understand why anyone would want to live in such a crowded and busy city. Will spare you my usual list of reasons and just post this description of how a local park has been upgraded with a lot of volunteer effort. It’s really little more than a green area around the 72nd Street subway entrance and yet it’s been made more beautiful and welcoming. This type of activity happens all the time here and always makes me smile.

Verdi Square, Once Known for Rats, Now Has a ‘Meadow’ and New Benches

Verdi Square, Once Known for Rats, Now Has a ‘Meadow’ and New Benches

Verdi Square on Broadway between 72nd and 73rd Streets has been known for lots of things over the past few decades, from heroin to rats. But a community group dedicated to cleaning it up is getting recognized for bringing out the square’s other attributes — flowers and birds. In fact, the square’s gardens are now split into three areas: The Woodland, The Meadow, and The Rose Garden.

“The Woodland is the name given to the newly designed garden surrounding the Giuseppe Verdi monument; The Meadow is the raised garden on the Broadway side of Verdi Square and The Rose Garden is planted in two raised granite beds featuring four cast iron urns. The garden design is inspired by community interest in a safe, beautiful and ecologically sustainable green space accessible to all, and includes only indigenous New York City plant species that are proven to thrive in the urban environment.”

New benches have also been placed in the park. The Friends of Verdi Square, the group that started cleaning the square up with the help of the NYC Parks Department last year, will be recognized with a ribbon-cutting on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver will be there, along with local politicians.

Friends of Verdi Square was founded by Aleya Lehmann, who brought together volunteer gardeners,led by New York Botanical Garden botanist Daniel Atha.

Lehmann gave us an update on the rat situation: “One of the NYC Parks crew members, Mike Kelin, was given an award from the Mayor’s office a few weeks ago: Neighborhood Rat Reduction Award, for his hard work at Verdi Square; I think it will be an ongoing effort, there are weekly abatements, just because of the subway, pigeon feeding and restaurants, but it is essentially rat-free, although there are occasional sightings . . . not bad, all things considered!”

The work of the volunteers has been consistent and impressive. Friends of Verdi Square has the stats:

“Since January 2019, two dozen volunteer gardeners have contributed 1,360 hours—in all kinds of weather—during 34 Saturday mornings; 4,138 square feet of terrain has been cleared; 348 bags of weeds removed; over 100 species of plants native to the region planted; and 58 rat burrows eliminated. Each day, thousands of area residents, transit riders and visitors are enjoying the transformed public space. The Friends have 356 members so far, plus 144 signatures of supporters on its clipboards, 44 businesses on the park’s perimeter have joined the Friends’ Business Council and 20 noted individuals have joined the newly established Advisory Council. The Friends group has also established a Founding Donor campaign, and is actively seeking donations to finish planting in time for the September 2019 ribbon cutting.”

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