By Johna Till Johnson
When it’s cold and snowy out, where does a New Yorker in search of lush greenery go? The Urban Garden Center, of course!
It’s a whimsical wonderland hidden under Park Ave at 116th St., and one of the many crown jewels of Spanish Harlem. In summer, there are live chickens (because what’s a garden center without chickens?). Children love to come and visit, and feed the chickens.
In winter the fauna are more limited: Teddy bears and mermaids.
And speaking of fairyland, the center’s owner, intrigued by my picture-taking, regaled me with stories of New York “back in the day” (we are pretty much the same age).
My favorite was the time when he, as an 18-year-old from Long Island City, Queens, drove his brand-new Honda CRX right into the middle of a gang war in Spanish Harlem.
As he drove into a narrow alley, the two sides stopped fighting each other and attacked him. They lobbed a Molotov cocktail at his car, lighting the hood on fire. There was nowhere for him to turn, so he threw the car into reverse and burned rubber backing out of the alleyway, flaming hood and all.
Ah, New York… those were the days!