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Not many apartments in the city come with keys to a secret garden but, unbeknownst to me until after signing the lease on my Boerum Hill apartment, mine did. (I had thought the only way that would happen would be moving to Gramercy with a prince, actual or of finance.)
The “secret” garden next to my building is actually semi-secret, it's tucked behind a gate in a lot shared with a playground for very young children.
During weekday mornings, the playground and garden are used mostly by nannies that take care of local babies and toddlers. (Surprisingly it's not noisy later on in the day or on the weekends, when I suppose people must hang out in their own brownstone backyards.)
In the evenings and at night, especially in the summer, homeless people sometimes take shelter in the play structures. They mostly keep to themselves. Not so the teenagers who arrive with music and, often, alcoholic refreshments.
Stereos are blasting, and teens are yelling. My neighbors, who own their apartments and have children, do not react well to a playground overrun with loud teens at night
They “shhh”the kids or yell that babies and children are sleeping, as if there was a paragraph at their closing about the idyllic quiet they’d just purchased. After yelling, they often call in noise complaints loudly in front of an open window or from their backyards, as if the call would scare the teens enough not to come back. The teens almost never respond, and eventually leave.
This back and forth lasts on and off all summer, but I'm honestly more annoyed by my neighbors' reactions than the noise. Maybe it's because I'm single with no kids, and I rent instead of own my apartment, so my expectations are lower. But sometimes I wonder if my neighbors forgot what it was like to be 14 themselves.
If the playground is a mixed bag to live next to, then the garden--set back behind the slides and another padlock, with keys given out--is an unfettered plus.
Organized and championed by a neighbor closer to my age who is probably more interested in plants than people, I happily hand over twenty bucks to keep the water running and weed at clean-up days in the spring. With the small buy-in and sweat equity, I can pop in to the garden and pick thyme or sage to cook with at dinner, a beautiful, small thing I do often. It's not a place to read or sit (there's no real seating), but it's a beautiful spot to take advantage of.
Living next to a playground and garden is a happy trade-off for me. I’m not leaving this apartment anytime soon.
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