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Gems of the Greenwich Village superblocks

Inspired by Untapped New York's new weekly series titled "5 Spots in 5 Minutes", we'd like to share 7 gems you can see in 15 minutes on 2 blocks in Greenwich Village.

1. Alan Sonfist's Time Landscape
Location: Laguardia Place and Houston Street

The Time Landscape park was created by landscape artist Alan Sonfist.  The landscape was proposed in 1956 "as a living monument to the forest that once blanketed Manhattan Island" prior to the arrival of Dutch settlers in the early 17th century.  Sonfist conducted "extensive research on New York’s botany, geology, and history."  The 25' x 40' forest park is composed of native trees, shrubs, wild grasses, flowers, plants, rocks, and earth.  

Image: Time Landscape
(Sonfist's conceptual/land art peers are Martha Schwartz ("The Bagel Garden"), Robert Smithson ("Spiral Jetty"), and Richard Serra ("Spin Out (for Robert Smithson)).

Image: Time Landscape (Hubert J. Steed,

2. Grove of willow oaks, an endangered species in New York State
Location: Bleecker Street, south, between Laguardia Place and Mercer Street

The oak grove on Bleecker Street is composed of red and willow oaks. There are six willow oaks which are also known as peach oaks. Decaying tissue and mushrooms on two of the willow oaks indicate poor condition.  Two of the willow oaks are in poor condition: decaying tissue and mushrooms are visible.  The willow oak is an S1 listed species under the New York Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP) which means it is "endangered/critically imperiled in New York because of extreme rarity (typically 5 or fewer populations or very few remaining individuals) or is extremely vulnerable to extirpation from New York due to biological factors", but only naturally occurring individuals or populations are considered.  Unfortunately, for listing purposes, the willow oaks  in the grove on Bleecker Street were planted.

Image: Red and willow oak grove, Bleecker Street

Image: Red and willow oak grove (Hubert J. Steed,

3. Carl Nesjar's sculpture of Piccaso’s "Sylvette"
Location: Bleecker Street, NYU Silver Towers lawn

The concrete sculpture of Picasso’s 1954 “Sylvette” was created in 1970 by the Norwegian sculptor Carl Nesjar.  The sculpture sits in the central lawn of the Silver Towers residential complex.  The site was conferred landmark designation by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2008.
Image: "Portrait of Sylvette" (Hubert J. Steed,

Image: "Portrait of Sylvette" (Hubert J. Steed,

4. Bleecker Street Sakura
Location: Bleecker Street near Mercer Street

Sakura is the Japanese word for "cherry blossoms."  In NYC, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is famous for its sakura display in the spring.  Greenwich Village has a smaller but no less impressive sakura show on Bleecker Street.  Mark your calendar for 2013!

Image: Kwanzan cherries, Bleecker Street

5. Sasaki Garden at Washington Square Village
Location: Washington Square Village courtyard (between old Greene and Wooster Streets)

The Sasaki Garden is a 1.5 acre garden and green roof in the center of the block bounded by Bleecker, Laguardia, West Third, and Mercer.  The garden was designed by the firm Sasaki, Walker and Associates and completed in 1959.  Approximately 13 species of trees totaling 69 individual trees can be found in the garden.  At least twelve species of birds have been observed in the garden (Northern Cardinal, Mockingbird, Thrasher, Catbird, Mourning Dove, Pigeon, American Robin, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush, Sparrow (House & White-throated) and European Starling) and additionally, at least three species of butterflies have been sighted in and/or near the garden: Red Admiral, American Lady, and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Image: Aerial of WSV Sasaki Garden, October 2011
(The garden is threatened by the NYU expansion plan.  You can learn more about the garden here.)

Image: WSV Sasaki Garden crabapple bosquet

Image: WSV Sasaki Garden southeast section

6. Allées of London planetrees
Location: Washington Square Village courtyard (old Greene and Wooster Streets)

An allee is a straight way lined on both sides with trees.  The courtyard of Washington Square Village features two allées, one on either side of the Sasaki Garden, of 15+ inch diameter London planetrees.

Image: Eastern allée of London planetrees looking south

Image: Eastern allée of planetrees looking north (Hubert J. Steed,
Image: Laguardia Place commercial strip, circa 1961, SHPO Resource Evaluation (source)

7.  Laguardia walkway to the Sasaki Garden
Location: Laguardia Place near West Third Street behind the La Guardia statue
This gem has been lost!  In the late 1990s, NYU filled in the walkway with a postal center thus eliminating a significant physical and visual access point to the Sasaki Garden.  The university also installed gates on either side of the commercial strip on Laguardia Place; these gates are permanently locked further prohibiting access from Laguardia Place to the Sasaki Garden. Don't miss the statue of former Mayor Fiorello La Guardia!

p.s. There is an 8th gem!  The Seed Labyrinth is on Laguardia Place between the community gardens and the Time Landscape.  We wrote about the labyrinth here.