Urban Citizen’s Traffic Island Garden

September 20, 2011 by

New York City green streets

Last May, when New York City workers were planting a tree on the traffic island in front of the salon where he’s employed, Victor Rueda asked them if he could contribute his own plants, including some sunflowers, to the small plot of land. They agreed. Ever since, Rueda has cultivated the garden as if it were his own, protecting the tall sunflowers from the recent hurricane by tying them with nylon thread to keep them from blowing over.

New York City's green streets

The tree planting effort is part of New York City’s Greenstreets program, launched in 1996 as a partnership between the Department of Parks & Recreation and the Department of Transportation. The citywide program’s goal is to convert paved, vacant traffic islands and medians into green spaces filled with shade trees, flowering trees, shrubs, and ground cover.

New York City's green streets

In April 2007, Mayor Bloomberg announced PlaNYC, a blueprint for New York City to attain sustainable growth and improve the quality of city life. PlaNYC includes a number of groundbreaking greening initiatives, including planting street trees in all possible locations, creating 800 new green streets, and reforesting 2,000 acres of parkland. Mayor Bloomberg has dedicated $391 million over ten years for these initiatives, and also funded an additional 156 staff and $4.6 million in new forestry and horticulture maintenance funds to support these greening efforts. The city’s plan did not include citizen gardeners like Rueda: he’s just doing it out of the goodness of his heart.


  1. Landscape Forms said:

    We love how Victor took initiative and has nurtured these sunflowers. If only more citizens were like him!

    — September 20, 2011 @ 15:18

  2. Emmon said:

    OK, it’s been a long day! These photos just “made my day”! The smile and sunflowers in the middle of the city… It means everything!

    — September 20, 2011 @ 22:49

  3. Annie Haven | Authentic Haven Brand said:

    the smallest gestures seem to make the biggest impact Lovely share Thank you

    — September 21, 2011 @ 07:33

  4. patty sechi said:

    I love this! What a great story. It starts with one seed, doesn’t it? I hope other storeowners saw this and tried to do the same. I recently went to the ACGA (American Community Gardening Association) Convention in NYC and Mayor Bloomberg and NYC’s GreenThumb project are doing amazing stuff. I am trying to convince our local government here in Greenwich, CT to join me in the community gardening efforts that I have begun, and it is a hard sell out here! However, as a member of the Greenwich Tree Conservancy board, I have to say that we have gotten local gov’t on board to work with us to plant nad replace trees.

    — September 21, 2011 @ 08:21

  5. Vickie Morgan said:

    As a member of the wholesale nursery industry, this effort can only be good for all of us. Every time I drive by an empty traffic median I wonder why it isn’t planted with something! There are some many drought tolerant plants that wouldn’t require much in the way of additional care. Every community should join this effort. Good job!

    — September 21, 2011 @ 08:39

  6. Barbara said:

    Fabulous! The NYC Parks & Recreation Department was wonderful to work with in gardening street tree beds, traffic medians, etc. He should hook up with the local parks folks for continued support.

    — September 21, 2011 @ 10:54

  7. Catherine said:

    The most amazing thing about this story is that nobody cut off the flower heads! New Yorkers get props for that.

    — September 21, 2011 @ 11:00

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  13. Luke said:

    The plan did include urban gardeners. There’s a site where you can adopt the tree formally, just as this guy has done informally. See the link: http://www.milliontreesnyc.org/html/care/care.shtml

    — April 13, 2012 @ 13:44

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