Sunflowers Brighten Up East Side Block

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:15

A resident of East 92nd Street turned an empty tree pit into a small patch of garden

Story & photo by Hannah Griffin

Upper East Side When the MTA began construction of the 2nd Avenue Subway in 2007, a surprising eyesore was created for some Upper East Side residents.

As part of the construction, many trees housed inside sidewalk tree beds were cut down. Upper East Side resident Jane Foss, a ceramics student at Hunter College, hated the look of the empty tree beds as they became filled with garbage and debris thrown in by passersby. A large abandoned building at the intersection of East 92nd St. and 2nd Avenue filled with garbage, and rats did not do much to help the feel of the area. "It was a depressing time in the neighborhood," Foss said.

Three years ago, Foss took some initiative to improve the problem by planting sunflower seeds in one of the tree beds at the northeast corner of 92nd St. and 2nd Avenue. The active intersection is home to a Brazilian restaurant, a pizza shop, a tavern, a mechanic garage, and now a healthy plot of sunflowers.

When she began, Foss did not know much about gardening, but says that the project is allowing her to learn more each year. Today the sunflowers are thriving, with several of the strongest stems measuring well over six feet; their bright flowering tops a welcome addition to the busy city street. Beside the sunflowers grow a small patch of morning glories, and in the center of the bed hidden by the new growth is the original, gnarled tree stump with one of Foss's ceramics on top.

The sunflowers grow almost directly in front of A&A Imported Motors Inc., and some of the staff there play a key role in keeping the sunflowers healthy by watering the plants when they wash the sidewalks. Foss appreciates this help because it can be tricky to bring water down from her high-rise building. In the spring Foss would like to get to work on some empty tree bed lots on the other side of 92nd Street, and has her eye on some other potential participants. "I'm going to try to wheedle the parking garage attendants into watering," she said.