Tag Archives: Queens

Urban Garden Center NYC

Urban Garden Center

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.

Fairyland (with teddy bears!)

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!

Fairyland fauna: Mermaid



Celebrating Autumn With a Walk to Bohemian Hall

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

Every so often, two great ideas combine to form an even better one.

DSC_0616 cropped smallThat’s what happened this past Saturday. Last fall, Vlad suggested we go to the Bohemian Hall Beer Garden for Oktoberfest. This was more than just a yen for drinking beer outdoors—Vlad is actually from the original Bohemia, and he enjoys discovering hidden flashes of the “old country” all the way here in NYC. (Another discovery is Hospoda, an eastside Czech restaurant, but that’s for another post.) Anyway, we didn’t make it last year, but the idea stayed on our list.

Bohemian Hall is in Astoria, Queens. It’s actually very near to where we live—as the crow flies. We can almost see it from our apartment. The problem is that between us and it flows the East River.

But, there is a bridge…

Hell Gate bridgesWe paddle under it all the time. But I’ve been wanting to walk across the Triborough (now Robert F. Kennedy) Bridge for the past few months since my friend Marc mentioned it was possible. The Triborough Bridge was built for cars, with pedestrians a grudging afterthought. But is can be done—Marc lives in Astoria and regularly hikes across the bridge into Manhattan.

And looking at the map, talk about serendipity: It turns out Bohemian Hall is just a couple of blocks from the bridge’s pedestrian exit in Astoria.

What could be more perfect than a walk over the bridge culminating in a visit to the beer garden? To top it off, this weekend, for the beginning of Oktoberfest, Bohemian Hall was featuring authentic roast pig  in addition to the usual sausage, sauerkraut, and beer. And the weather was absolutely perfect: A golden early-autumn day.

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