Randalls Island Park Alliance

Archive for 2013|Yearly archive page


In What's in Bloom on July 10, 2013 at 2:20 pm


By Phyllis Odessey

On Saturday, June 29th, 16 volunteers came to Randall’s Island to work on a restoration project at our White Garden on Wards Island.  The White Garden has a special place in my heart.  It’s a little hidden and was here when I came to Randalls’ seven years ago.

In the last seven years, we expanded the garden, added several birch trees and planted spring blooming bulbs.

The White Garden was hit hard by Sandy.  In fact, out of all the gardens on Randalls, The Bloomberg Vols w RIPA HC in White Garden 062913 145[1] White Garden suffered the most damage.  Through an analysis of water currents and topography, we figured out that The White Garden, although on higher ground than some other gardens, the force of the water at Hell Gate was stronger than say the Water’s Edge Garden.

Bloomberg Vols w RIPA HC in White Garden 062913 160[1]

We also planted salt and drought tolerant plants, which we hope we last many years.  In addition, we expanded the birch tree forest, which is underplanted with bluebells.

Here is the list of new plants:
Dicentra spectablis ‘Alba’
Epimedium x ‘Niveum’
Galium odoratum
Lamium m. ‘White Nancy’
Polygonatum s. ‘Variegatum’

Bloomberg volunteers planted a total of 800 plants.  Stop by and The White Garden and see what’s growing.
Bloomberg Vols w RIPA HC in White Garden 062913 164[1]


A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

In What's in Bloom on July 2, 2013 at 2:21 pm


By Phyllis Odessey

I am feeling very proud.  We just finished hanging photographs for our exhibition at the East Harlem Cafe.  The opening reception is July 9th between 5-7 pm.

The photographs feature kids who have participated in our Edible Education Program at the Urban Farm, a partnership with GrowNYC.  As well as some fantastic photographs from the gardens around Randall’s Island.
PHOTOINVITEWe look forward to seeing you the Cafe for the opening.  The show will be up for one month, stop by and have a look and enjoy a great cup of coffee.


Pay It Forward

In Water's Edge Garden on June 25, 2013 at 2:00 pm

By Phyllis Odessey

profile-1110IMG_0716IMG_0715Giving back is an important part of the culture at Randall’s Island Park Alliance.

Our Urban Farm contributes all its extra produce to a small soup kitchen in East Harlem.  All the workshops and programming are  are free.

At the Waterfront Garden, we believe in sharing “the wealth.”  After seven years, the garden contains approximately 150,000 perennials and 50,000 spring and fall blooming bulbs.  We often divide our plants and email to friends and other gardeners that we have plants available.

On Thursday, June 20, volunteers from Goldman Sachs Community
IMG_0705Teamworks came to the waterfront garden to divide Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Red Head.’  It’s tough as nails, both as a garden plant and as a plant.  It was unaffected by the salt water that covered it for a day or two as a result of the water washing over the garden due to  Sandy.

The last time, we divided this grass was four years ago and it was time to do it again.  With so many community gardens hurting, we decided to title our volunteer project, ‘PAY IT FORWARD.’

IMG_0714The great thing about division projects is from one plant comes many.  Each of these massive grasses, that volunteers from Goldman Sachs Community Teamworks divided,  bore at least 10 divisions.  We will be contacting several community gardens and seeing how many of the divisions these gardens can use.

We thank our team of Goldman Sachs Community Teamworks volunteers for their hard work and hard work it was.  Brand new bow saws in hand; it took something much more intense IMG_0713than new tools.  It took old- fashioned elbow grease, which was in great supply.  No one gave up or gave in.  The day was a tremendous success.  We hope to see all our wonderful volunteers from Goldma Sachs on Randall’s Island next year.


In New Ideas and Expansions on May 23, 2013 at 7:50 pm

profile-1110By Phyllis Odessey

People lost their homes, their lives, their electricity, their cars, their pets due to Hurricane Sandy. We lost plants.

On Wednesday, we hosted 14 volunteers from Goldman Sachs Community Teamworks to plant  The Waterfront Garden, which sustained a certain amount of damage from Sandy.

Although we are surrounded by the water, Hurricane Sandy did not cause as much damage as Battery Park or Brooklyn Bridge Park.  We were very lucky.  We watched and waited to see what plants would make it or which would not.

I like to be scientific about these things, but some plants do have a life span and some of ours had come naturally to the end of their lives.  Others were damaged by Sandy and died.IMG_0536

Goldman Sachs Community Teamworks volunteers have been coming to Randalls’ for 15 years.  They have planted gardens and trees, mulched, removed debris and regraded slopes.  We knew they would be up to the task at hand; 6,000 perennials for the waterfront garden.  This sounds like a large number and for a residential situation it is.  But we deal in big numbers on Randalls Island.  Our land mass is half the size of Central Park.  It takes a lot of plants and shrubs to make a garden.

IMG_0548The Waterfront Garden has approximately 150,000 perennials and 50,000 fall and spring blooming bulbs.  This garden was created by Eunyoung Sebazco, Horticulture Manager and myself when we came to Randall’s Island seven years.  Over the last seven years, Goldman Sachs volunteers have been coming to The Waterfront Garden to plant and mulch.  We knew they could plant 6,000 perennials and by 2:30 pm, we were finished and walking back to Icahn Stadium to say goodbye.

We thank all our wonderful volunteers for participating and making The Waterfront Garden, what it has always been:  a showcase, our Randall’s Island Park Alliance “greeting” to visitors walking or biking over the pedestrian bridge at 102 st. and most especially, a special place to sit and watch the world go by.


Color-Coded Garden: Maria Loboda

In New Ideas and Expansions, Randall's Island on May 2, 2013 at 12:14 pm


May 10-13

profile-1110By Phyllis Odessey
I’ve worked on Randall’s Island for over 6 years.  Every year brings surprises.  2012 was the first year the Frieze Art Fair was held on Randall’s Island.  Freize transforms the event lawn with the largest tent erected in the Northeast.  Cecilia Alemani is the curator of Freize Projects, a program of artists’ commissions.  The participating artists in 2013 are;  Liz Blynn, Maria Loboda, Mateo Tannatt, Andra Ursuta, Marianne Vitale.  The program also includes a special tribute to legendary artist run restaurant Food, originally conceived by Gordon Matta-Clark and Carol Godden in 1971 and an original text by novelist Ben Marcus.

We have been helping Maria Loboda install her project:  Color-Coded Garden.  Two of our staff members, James C. and James N. have been working with Maria laying out plants that arrived from Otto Kiel Nursery yesterday.

Maria Loboda’s work analyzes systems of communications, underscoring the transformative power of languages and codes. Reflecting upon the relationship between nature and verbal communication, Loboda has realized a number of works in which the natural world is analyzed through the lens of language. Taking as inspiration the lush parkland of Randall’s Island, the artist will turn an area of the park into a color-coded garden, an exact replica of an illustration of a European interior design motif from the 19th century. Interested in the precision of color mapping, the artist will translate the two-dimensional image into a living landscape of plants, flowers and shrubs, highlighting not only the relationship between interior and exterior, but also between two and three-dimensional landscapes. from freizeprojectsny.org

Here are a few snapshots of the beginning stages of the plant layout.



Bridges over Randall’s Island

In Meet The Crew, New Ideas and Expansions on April 18, 2013 at 12:07 pm

IMG_0246By James C.

My name is James Carroll and I’m a new gardener here at Randall’s Island. I’ve been learning about horticulture at the New York Botanical Gardens and the Queens Botanical Gardens and I’m very excited to be applying my gardening skills on this interesting island.

New York City is known for it’s famous bridges, the Brooklyn Bridge perhaps being the most iconic. But few are familiar with the architectural importance of the bridges over Randall’s Island. The Hell Gate Bridge and the Triborough Bridge are both unique representations of architectural styles and periods in New York History.

The violent waterway known as Hell Gate today  was originally named Hellegat by the Dutch, which could mean “hell’s hole”. Like Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx, where the creek nearby was named “Devil’s Spout” or Spuitende Duivel, the Dutch commonly named waterways in the low country in this manner.Today the converging currents of the East River are still rapid, despite being cleared of obstacles in the 19th century due to hundreds of shipwrecks.

The Bridge that spans Hell Gate was originally named, less excitingly, the New York Connecting Railroad Bridge. Initiated in 1912 and completed in 1916, the bridge linked the New York and Pennsylvania Railroad with the New England and New Haven railroad lines. Architect Gustav Lindenthal’s original design of the bridge’s approach ramps included a low steel lattice structure but was soon changed after concerns that the island’s asylum inmates would climb it to escape.

When completed it was the world’s longest steel arch bridge until the opening of the Bayonne Bridge in 1931. The Hell Gate Bridge was the source of inspiration for the Sydney Harbour Bridge which is 60% larger.

Today it serves both rail and passenger traffic and trains can be seen frequently passing over our gardens and urban farm. A recently completed bike path is located under the arches of the bridge allowing bicyclist to enjoy the grandeur of the bridge up close. Long term plans are currently under way to connect the Randall’s Island path to the South Bronx bikeway in Starlight Park.


While the Hell Gate Bridge could be argued to be the original tri borough bridge, it wasn’t until 1936 when Robert moses completed the present Triboro Bridge which provides vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The main bridge that connects Ward’s Island and Astoria is a fine example of art deco themes common in the 1930’s. The stepped columns recede in a ziggurat style similar to other projects from the 1930’s such as Rockefeller Center.

One such example of Art Deco architecture can be seen on Randall’s Island at the Triboro Bridge Authority Building which was Robert Moses’ headquarters during his reign over New York City as traffic czar and “master builder.”

The original cost of the Triboro Bridge was $60 million, greater than the Hoover Damn and one of the largest public works during the Great Depression.

The bridge was renamed the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge in 2008 but is still commonly referred to as the Triboro.

This photo, taken in 1936 upon the completion of the Triboro Bridge, shows an unidentified building under the Hell Gate Bridge where our Urban Farm is  currently located. Many of the trees surrounding it have been cut down for sports fields, but many have been replanted with help from the MillionTreesNYC program.


Panorama of the Ward’s Island seen from Astoria Park, 2009

More photos and information on the Triboro Bridge at Forgotten NY here

Our Good Friends

In What's in Bloom on April 1, 2013 at 9:05 pm

By EunYoung Sebazco

m m  Miki Murashima is a Japanese daycare provider. She opened her Japanese daycare center 2009 in Astoria, Queens and has been teaching Japanese Language and Japanese culture to children. She has been serving infants and toddlers. She has also volunteered at African Impact’s project in Zimbabwe for helping African Lion Rehabilitation and Release into the Wild Program in the spring 2012.  She will lead small children’s activities at the first Cherry Blossom Festival.

juan  Juan Pablo Gomez is a certified Yoga instructor (www.juanpabloyoga.com). For over 15 years, he pursued a successful marketing career in the Consumer Packaged Goods industry.  His passion for yoga led to an alternate career path.  He believes that,  if practiced effectively, yoga can lead to a transformative experience in increased self awareness and actualization. His mission is to support his students in developing their own practices, ultimately identifying their own inner teacher.  He is bilingual in English and Spanish. Currently, he is one of the teachers at Yoga Agora, one of most popular yoga studios in NYC. His class will held on the waterfront garden lawn area on July 20th.

Let’s Get Glam GLAM

In Meet The Crew, New Ideas and Expansions, Randall's Island on March 24, 2013 at 3:00 pm

dianne for blogBy Diane B.

Greetings! This is Diane, one of the 2013 Horticulture seasonal employees of Randall’s Island Park Alliance. To state a few facts about myself, I recently moved here from Delaware. Last year I graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in Plant science, with a concentration in plant propagation.

As a new and upcoming horticulturist, I was looking for a place that would expand my knowledge of what is available and also provide a lot of hands on learning experience, and that’s when I found Randall’s Island. This area seemed like the perfect place for learning about new opportunities and challenges. We’ve only been here a week and already we’re starting our first challenge of the season, planning decorative flower arrangements for the Gala.

The Gala was a charity benefit for Randall’s Island Park Alliance.  It  was held on Tuesday, March 12 at the American Natural History Museum.  Being the horticulture crew, we were given the task to providing a tropical island atmosphere using  live tropical plants for the event rooms.

The first room that needed to be setup was the cocktail area room, which was held in the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda. The pictures above are the two flower arrangements that we made and placed throughout the cocktail room.



In the picture on the right, we have pincushion yellow gold (Leaucospermum) this flower is a native to the South African region where it is normally seen as an evergreen shrub and blooms between the months of November to April. The flower on the right is a King Protea (Protea cynaroides) mostly admired for its giant flower heads; it is also a South African native. These flowers are amazing  to use for flower arrangements, because of its long vase life. It is easily dried;  so you can keep it around for an even longer.

Finally, the last and final part of the project was the sixty two center pieces for the dinner tables. The centerpieces consisted of two to three inch tall wheat grass with eight poppy flowers scattered throughout the tray. The idea was to show the illusion of the flowers growing straight out of the wheat grass.

poppy centerpiece

These plants were found to be the most challenging of the entire project.  We arranged the poppies two days in advance. The poppy flower petals and stems are very fragile. Each flower had to be carefully placed and packaged within the transportation truck so they would not break during the trip to the dining tables. Luckily, we had plenty of left over poppies and any damaged stems we quickly replaced before dinner was served.

All in all I would say this project was a great success. We tackled everything with a Macgyver-esque ability and achieved our goal of providing fresh looking exotic plants for the enjoyment of the Gala patrons.

Opportunity Knocks

In New Ideas and Expansions, Water's Edge Garden, White Garden on March 22, 2013 at 1:53 pm

profile-1110By Phyllis Odessey

I am a big believer in turning a crisis into an opportunity.  This might seem Pollyannaish, but a little bit of optimism goes a long way in the field of horticulture, where disappointment, disease and destruction are part of the game.  Hurricane Sandy was no different.  For those of us who are charged with overseeing and caring for water’s edge gardens; we were challenged.
Rebecca McMackin, Park Horticulturist for Brooklyn Bridge Park, took the initiative and organized a meeting for horticulturists and operational staff, who work in local waterfront  parks.  The objective was to  discuss the horticultural and operational Me and lawnmowerstrategies employed  for dealing with Sandy, as well as to collect data and put together a list of best practices for future storms.  Rebecca called  our group,  The Consortium of Coastal Parks.  This meeting of the minds was composed of principles from Battery Park City, Battery Park Conservancy, New York City Parks Department, Governors Island, Hudson River Park, Randall’s Island, and a few “call in” guests from the Rose Kennedy Greenway in MA, as well as a Professor of Geography, Dr. Rutherford Platt from the University of MA.,

All these parks have in common a water’s edge.  We exchanged and compared notes on approaches to remediation.  Who did what?  This ranged from flushing soil to humic acid to gypsum.  Of course, most importantly, soil testing.


I felt like the odd man out.  At Randall’s we took a different approach.  Our first priority was to clear pathways and gardens of fallen trees and branches.  Second was to clean the line of debris left by  water washing over the seawall three times.  With over 5 miles of coastline, we enlisted the help of hundreds of wonderful volunteers to aid IMG_2214us in the clean-up.  Last, but certainly not least, we had to make a decision about the gardens.  With no irrigation in any of the gardens, the idea of flushing out the soil was impossible.

What should we do?

To say we (Eunyoung and myself) did nothing is only part of the answer.  In consultation with Japanese experts, we decided to take a different approach.  We leaned into the world of  “permaculture” .  Our approach was and is  to observe the patterns of nature, and examine over  time how nature deals with salinity in soil.  Considering our resources, both financial and human, we made a determination to be watchful and sustainable.

We will keep you posted on how this decision plays out.

PINK PETALS for the Entire Family

In Learning Garden, New Ideas and Expansions, What's in Bloom on March 20, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Chanticleer photo

Phyllis Odessey
Director of Horticulture

Join Us for our first
community-wide FREE event:


April 20, 2013
10 am – noon
Walk across the 102 st.  bridge

rsvp or to ask any questions:


TREE to take home


to take home


Let our staff
draw a cheery
for you


Create a cheery blossom
tissue paper
to brighten your window sill


and more…

how to make