Can a garden call itself a “public” space if people are not actually allowed to enter? As reported by the NY Times, the Sheridan Square Viewing Garden may look like a serene patch of greenery you’d like to visit, but don’t mistake it for a place where you can stop in and smell the roses.
Wrapped by a wrought-iron gate in the heart of the West Village, the triagonal garden is filled with rose bushes, thyme beds, and lush magnolia and crab apple trees. Although volunteers do care for the garden’s upkeep, this “open” green space is actually closed to the public.
According to the NY Times, the garden was part of the city’s campaign around the mid-80s to install green space, or “greenstreets”, in unused street areas in order to bring a bit of nature back into the concrete-laden cityscape.
However, despite this effort to greenify the city, there was a distinctly different social climate at the time, meaning that a lot of open spaces were prime spots for criminal behavior such as loitering, panhandling, etc. Samuel I. Schwartz, traffic commissioner from 1982 to 1986, told the NY Times that at the time, “even chairs were nailed down to keep them from being stolen.” Accordingly, according to Schwartz, many green spaces that were planted during those years, such as the Sheridan Garden, were basically “closed to people, open to your eyes.”
Today, the bustling West Village area is a very different place and many can’t understand why a beautiful city garden would have to be locked. However, despite some push to open the garden to visitors, there don’t seem to be any plans to remove the iron gates anytime soon. “Sheridan Square was designed as a gated garden in response to community requests, and it remains a well-loved spot of color in the West Village,” said Sam Biederman, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
Via NY Times
Images via NYC Parks