We met at the Public Library in Flushing, Queens, in the heart of Chinatown. Outside it was teeming with people, fighting for sidewalk space.
Only ten minutes away was a serene oasis: the Queens Botanical Garden. Who better to guide us there than Greeter Lori Lustig who has lived in Flushing all her life?
Lori said the area was first settled in the 1600s by the Dutch, German, Irish and Jews. Today this diverse community has Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, European, and African American residents.
On our way to the Garden, we stopped at the Post Office. Lori pointed out striking murals just below the ceiling painted by Vincent Aderente. Ironically, the busy customers never looked up to enjoy the view.
We arrived at the Queens Botanical Garden greeted by lush, massive trees. The word “bountiful” comes to mind since an abundance of beauty was everywhere we turned. There are 39 acres filled with exotic plants, woodlands, and thematic gardens: the Wedding Garden, The Backyard Garden, just to name a few.
We were soon joined by Fatima Viola, a Visitors Service Assistant. She spoke about the Visitor & Administration Building, the city’s first public green building to be LEED Platinum certified and one of the most environmentally efficient in the world. The extra-large roof collects and deposits rain into the Biotope, a water channel on the ground. The water is then cleansed and used for the gardens.
There are four full-time gardeners and many volunteers who never use spray or fertilizer. As we peeked into the Biotope, Fatima showed us goldfish and spoke of the “mommy and baby turtle” who sunbathe on the ledge. The Garden is so healthy, wildlife flourishes: pheasants, raccoons, blue jays, robins, butterflies and beetles. We decided their giant bullfrog should be named “Jeremiah.”
Fatima took us behind the scenes to see huge compost piles. Never has dirt felt so clean or smelled so good.
Once it was a 5-acre exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair, called “Garden on Parade.” Today, the Queens Botanical Garden is a shining example of how “going green” helps living things not just survive but thrive!