Garden and Bicycle Route Design Experience

by Maggie Clarke, Ph.D.

Design and Administration of Community Gardens

Riverside-Inwood Neighborhood Gardens, Inc. (RING) The first garden

In 1984, working with Assemblyman Brian Murtaugh, I started the first RING garden on a rubble-strewn, abandoned lot at Riverside Drive and Payson Ave. in Inwood, Upper Manhattan. I secured in-kind and other financial assistance from Councilmember Stanley Michels and Assemblyman Brian Murtaugh, the Green Guerrillas, and New York Horticultural Society. Securing 38 truckoads of donated soil from an excavation company in December 1984, donated plants from the Green Guerrillas, and railroad ties from an abandoned railroad, the outlines of the garden and much planting was done in 1985. I built a local organization of dozens of local volunteers and contributors who worked every weekend to transform the lot into a botanical garden in a foot of soil on top of building rubble from 1984-1987. During this time I started an educational program with the nearby Our Lady Queen of Martyrs middle school, an association which still exists today. This botanical community garden won two citywide Mollie Parnis Dress Up Your Neighborhood Contests in 1985 and 1987 and awards from the New York Horticultural Society for its flowers.  



Riverside-Inwood Neighborhood Gardens, Inc.
(RING) Triangle garden

After the first RING garden was required to abandon its site by the private land owner, Councilmember Michels, Assemblyman Murtaugh, State Senator Leichter, and Columbia Presbyterian hospital directly funded $6,000, Trust for Public Land provided a $10,000 endowment, and the NYC Parks Department, which owns the new site, provided thousands of dollars in in-kind support for the new garden at the Lt. William Tighe Triangle (bounded by Broadway, Dyckman, Riverside, and Seaman). 1989 – 1990.  This botanical community garden was built as raised beds in two feet of soil or less on top of asphalt, and has won several Dress Up Your Neighborhood Contests and many small grants from Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, Apple Bank, among others to assist the gardening, events, and public outreach programs.  Award Winner of Citywide "Dress Up Your Neighborhood Contests" in 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998. 


Riverside-Inwood Neighborhood Gardens, Inc. (RING) First MBP capital grant

In the mid-1990s the RING Garden was able to purchase a pond shell and a small solar collector with which to circulate water creating a small waterfall with a little over $1,000 grant from Manhattan Borough President, Ruth Messinger.  Subsequent investments allowed the garden to purchase an additional five solar collectors, 3 batteries, a biofilter and vortex to clean the pond as water circulates.



Riverside-Inwood Neighborhood Gardens, Inc. (RING)  Reconstruction project

In 1996 and 1997 Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, provided $215,000 and supplemental $17,000 in capital grants for major renovation at RING Triangle garden 1999-2000 (concrete walls to replace rotting railroad ties, 2 new entrances, arbor, shed, wrought iron fence, ground hydrants, four foot deep pond).


Riverside-Inwood Neighborhood Gardens, Inc. (RING) Trees Inwood Project

In 2005 RING secured funding and in-kind in the Green Links program of the NYC Parks Dept. for a project to plant 25 street trees on Dyckman St. and Inwood’s nearby commercial streets.  RING volunteers secured signatures from store owners and shopkeepers, and has done preliminary work to have middle school students at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs trained in street tree care, in advance of a program where students will monitor the health and conditions of street trees and help businesses care for their trees.  The first installment of street trees were planted on Dyckman Street in Fall 2006, and ten cherry trees will bloom in spring 2007.

(photo is looking east from Broadway on Dyckman St.)



Bike Route Design Experience:

.Cherry Blossom ride 2005

New York Cycle Club Ride Leader and route designer since 1981 in the New York metropolitan area.  I developed and led dozens of ride routes up to 70 miles, hundreds of rides, many starting from Inwood and Washington-Heights, to Bergen, Rockland, Westchester, Fairfield, Essex, Passaic, Nassau and nearby counties, as well as in the five counties of New York City.  Over these years I generated and tested new routes for climbing the Palisades, a formation across the Hudson from the steep ridge that runs along the river north-south from Washington-heights to the Yonkers border.   As a geographer and a cyclist I am able to look at a topographic map (and now use Google Earth) to lay out first estimations of bicycle-friendly routes, for subsequent on-road testing.  As a ride leader, I am quite familiar with the needs of and amenities appreciated by cyclists.


Amsterdam Train station bike parking lot

On-the-Ground Research and photography of urban solutions for integrating bicycle traffic with cars, pedestrians, and mass transit.  With the purpose of idea transfer and adaptation, I have photographed a variety of bicycling signage, road markers, lights, parking and other unusual or innovative methods in many countries, including the Netherlands, England, Scotland, Canada, China as well as different parts of the U.S.  The shot on the left, of multi-level bicycle parking, is outside Amsterdam Centraal train station.




West Point, NY

Numerous bicycle trips abroad and in the northeast U.S. Starting in 1980 on numerous trips abroad (Holland, China, France, Switzerland, Canada) and in the northeast (VT, NH, MA, CT, upstate NY, NJ, PA, MD), and frequently in New York City, I have ridden on numerous roads, bike trails, and greenways of all description, and have experienced, first-hand, what designs work well and which ones are dangerous and difficult (e.g., I witnessed two accidents in an experienced group on the Mohawk bike trail on either side of Schenectady caused by dangerous bike trail design.)  I have observed and photographed many examples of bicycle lanes, special light controls, parking, and signage.




Community Outreach

Advisory Board Experience

These advisory boards, comprised mostly of concerned citizens, have typically met monthly to become educated on their specific environmental issues and to make recommendations to implementing authorities.

 ·        Manhattan Citizens Solid Waste Advisory Board, 1988 - 2006. Chair, 1992 - 1994; Vice Chair 1994 - 1996,  2001-2003; 2005- 2006.  Waste Prevention Committee, Chair, 1991 - 2006. http://WPComm.htm

·        New York Citywide Recycling Advisory Board, 1990-. Steering Committee, 1991 - ; Vice Chair 2001 - 2003.

·        New York City Waste Prevention Coalition, 2000 - 2005; Vice chair 2001-2003. Co-chair 2004-2005

·        9/11 Environmental Action, Founding member and Steering Committee member, 2002-

·        New Jersey DEPE Mercury Emissions Standard-Setting Task Force, member, 1992 - 1994.

·        NYC Environmental Policy Forum member, treasurer, 1980 – 1989.  As part of this effort, I conceived, researched and got passed legislation to phase out all NYC apartment building incinerators by 1993.

·        Camden County, NJ, Camden Environmental Technical Advisory Committee member, charged with advising Camden County on incinerator retrofit design, and other air quality matters. 1993-94.


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