Street Level in NYC: Pocket Parks

Sun, 26/05/2013 - 11:23
Pocket Park by Dafni Dimitriadi
Pocket Park by Dafni Dimitriadi

...... from Honey Locust Trees to Hostas

Pocket Parks literally form a small ‘pocket’ among the other buildings. They are also known as miniparks, parklets or parkettes. They are usually developed on vacant lots or irregular pieces of land in cities where green space is in short supply, and they soften the edges of the concrete and asphalt cityscape. If these foliage dots also contain the floral forage of urban orchards and wildflowers, they could become valuable stopping off points for pollinators, and naturally flow into the River of Flowers of a city.

Greenacre Park in Summer © Gilles La Heurte

New York has so many Pocket Parks that they have their own online Frommer’s Guide! Several have been upgraded to ‘vest pocket parks’. They are found in parts of the city with minimal access to green space and are usually surrounded by existing development on three sides. They often have places for people to sit or eat. Two of the more flowery Vest Pocket Parks in Manhattan are Paley Park and Greenacre Park, both with native honey locust trees offering dappled shade during sweltering days. Two others are the twin pocket parks of Tudor City Greens that sadly sutained heavy damage during Hurricane Sandy but the work required to return these parks to their former beauty is already underway. 

Paley Park in Summer with Honey Locust trees in leaf © Dafni Dimitriadi

Paley Park in Winter © Jim Henderson 

Honey Locust Tree (Gleditsia triacanthos) is a native North American tree, sometimes called the Thorny locust, and it is tolerant of urban conditions, pollution, compacted and poor soil, road salt, heat and drought. According toNew York City Trees: A Field Guide for the Metropolitan Area, the honey locust is the most common street tree in Manhattan. The trees in full leaf provide a lightly stippled shade. The Honey locust is pollinated by small bees and flies, and a similar-looking tree that also tolerates pollution well, the early and short flowering Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), is a favourite of bees and humming birds. The Honey locust pulp inside the long pods is edible but that of the Black locust is toxic, which may be the reason why fewer of the latter are planted in cities.

Honey locust pod © Andrew Dunn

Hostas are ubiquitous probably because they are shade loving and tolerant of the urban environment. Native to north east Asia rather than north east America, hostas are pollinated by bees. They are also known as Plantain lilies or by their Japanese name of giboshi. It would be inspiring to see a greater variety of wildflowers in the tree pits to attract a wider range of pollinators rather than so many hostas.

Bressingham Blue Hostas © Qwerty2



Pocket Park© Dafni Dimitriadi

Read more: 

Frommers Guide to Pocket Parks 

Cultural Landscape Foundation

How-To Guide for Creating a Pocket Park and Greenspace Projects