Urban garden below sidewalk grates

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When I was in New York City a while ago, I noticed that someone in the West Village had put a bunch of potted plants below the sidewalk grates outside their building. I really was taken by the subtle sidewalk garden. Click on the photos for bigger images.


  1. I love this idea. What is the function of the grates to begin with? (No, I do not live in a big city) Also wondering about the care of the plants – do you just pop the grates out and prune, water, fix the soil, etc.?

  2. That IS very nice to see. It has a sort of surreal, maybe a somewhat fantastical quality to it.

    However, the phrase that almost immediately occurred to me upon reading this entry was, “hobo pee.”

    Following closely on that first thought was an image of someone eying a particularly odd-tasting squash. So I do hope the garden isn’t compromised.

  3. It actually looks like the grates may be lightwells for rooms in the basement of that building. If you look at the building side, there’s a feeling of… spaciousness, I guess. It would be fun to go in and down a flight to see if you could get someone to show you the other side.

  4. i confess that “hobo pee” was what came to my mind first, too. my first thought was “eww!” rather than “oooo!”

  5. Two Hostas, one Hedera helix. Not food, so hobo pee won’t be a huge deal. Hobo poo might even be helpful although that might be an esthetic problem given the grate.

  6. Ah, that’s good to know the plants aren’t edible. Still, I hope the hobos find someplace else to unload their used cooking brandy.

  7. This is quite beautiful. Makes me wonder if it would be possible to set little grate-covered garden beds into bright, naturally-lit indoor areas, for admiring beneath your feet. I have many, many succulents that would easily survive those kinds of conditions.

  8. Apropos to NYC street urination, here’s the deal in 2008: Homeless folks can get locked up for public urination. Thus, all over the city in the morning you can find plastic bottles filled with urine just rolling in the gutters. That doesn’t apply to frat boys who have taken up the public peeing slack by doing it wherever they can.

  9. Absolutely gorgeous and yet very understated at the same time.

    I’d like to know what these grates are for as well. there’s a few around the Federal bank in Denver that have speakers in them that play stuff like hoof beats, people laughing and other weird things when you walk over them, so I’ve wondered what the grates were before.

  10. This is the home of a lovely couple, Simon & Anna, and Simon’s video production company, Katina. (http://www.katinaproductions.com/) I do a lot of work for Katina.

    Anyway, the little subterranean area is accessible through a basement window.

    They get compliments on it all the time, people slip in notes, letters, and trinkets. Very little hobo pee or garbage, surprisingly. The biggest problem is cigarette butts, which, when still lit, will burn the leaves of the plants. Otherwise, people are very respectful and enthusiastic.

  11. There is at least one place in NYC where plants have grown underneath the sidewalk grates of subway without people putting them there. On the F train you can see several plants growing underneath Hillside Avenue, as you travel between stations. When I was in high school, traveling into Manhattan, I would try to catch a glimpse of it every time I passed by it.


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