Wed. May 18th, 2022

MIDTOWN MANHATTAN, NY – At least a century after it was first fenced, the garden at St. Vartan Park in Murray Hill opened to the public on Friday after months of talk from neighbors.

The gates swung up Friday morning at the small garden that occupies the eastern end of the park along First Avenue between East 35th and 36th streets. It marks the beginning of a two-month trial opening planned by the park department.

Since 2000, the garden had been the exclusive domain of St. Vartan Preschool, a fee-based institution whose control over space had been approved by the city. Its founder, Stefanie Forniolo, had spent years cultivating the garden, planting tulips and maintaining its trees and rose bushes – and was determined to open it up for public use.

“It’s just a handful of pushy people who want to be on the grass, and I’m worried about the grass,” Forniolo told Patch last month.

The garden has been closed off for decades, possibly since St. Vartan Park was built in 1904. (Manhattan Community Board 6)

Neighbors, meanwhile, claimed the garden was a “bastion of inequality” and pointed out that the preschool was inaccessible to many working families as it requires parents to accompany their children.

In addition, they said Murray Hill is heavily hungry for green space, making the closed event unsustainable. (In any case, the garden had been without boundaries long before the preschool was established — Prevented recently reported that the gates may have been in place since 1904, when St. Vartan Park was built.)

Friday’s opening was attended by park department staff and members of Community Board 6, who had pushed for public access.

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