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A park with grass, flowers, and shrubs. There are winding pathways through the park, and trees surrounding it.
The Naval Cemetery Landscape in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Max Touhey

NYC’s best hidden parks and secret gardens, mapped

Get away from the hustle and bustle of the city at these secluded green spaces

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The Naval Cemetery Landscape in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
| Max Touhey

Despite its reputation as a concrete jungle, New York City isn’t lacking in green space. Heck, some of the city’s most famous destinations are parks—but you will be hard-pressed to find actual peace and quiet on the High Line or in Central Park.

A storehouse of under-the-radar gardens is crucial to finding nature nirvana when everyone you know is lounging lakeside in Prospect Park or taking the ferry to Governors Island. Avoid the crowds and enjoy some flora and fauna in unexpected places at these 13 hidden gems.

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6BC Botanical Garden

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The East Village is rife with community gardens, and 6BC, named for its location on East 6th Street between Avenues B and C, is one of the most famous. The nearly 40-year-old garden has evolved from a place where locals tended small plots to a verdant space dedicated to biodiversity and horticulture education. The lush, otherworldly environs include a small fish pond, a meandering brick path, and a pergola and trellis wrapped in blooming vines. It’s generally open on weekends from noon to 6 p.m. and weekdays after 6 p.m., but if you swing by and the gate is closed, there are at least two dozen other gardens within a two-block radius to sate your need for nature.

The Church of St. Luke in the Fields

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The West Village is dotted with publicly accessible gardens, but the Garden at the Church of Saint Luke in the Fields is unique because of its location. It’s in the neighborhood’s historic district on the corner of Hudson and Barrow streets, so it benefits from more light and open sky than gardens tucked in tight lots between rowhouses. Plus, it’s blocked from the bustle of the streets by brick walls, so it’s quieter, too. Inside, you’ll find an oasis filled with leafy trees, wildflowers, blooming bushes, and carefully manicured gardens that attract over 100 species of birds and two dozen types of butterflies and moths. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to dusk, but closed on holidays.

Tudor City Greens

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The gardens of Tudor City feel hidden partly because they’re not wholly accessible at street level; when you approach on East 42nd Street, you have to go up one of two staircases located on either side of the street, and a bridge connects the two block-long parks. When the development first opened in the late 1920s, the gardens served as a reprieve from the industrial activity and pollution on the East River. Today they offer a quiet escape from the chaos of the city, just blocks from Grand Central and the United Nations. They’re open to the public daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

Trees, shrubbery, and other plants in a small park. There is a gravel pathway and buildings behind the park. Shutterstock

Heather Garden

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Some of the city’s best secret gardens are hidden within bigger parks. Such is the case with Heather Garden, a sloping three-acre piece of Fort Tryon Park that offers views of the Hudson River. Designed in 1935 by the Olmsted brothers and planted with a mix of trees (elm, yew, dogwood), flowering shrubs (azaleas, old world roses, hydrangeas), and perennials—including one of the largest collections of heath and heather on the East Coast—the garden is one to visit in every season.

A field of flowers in shades of pink, green, and white. There is a sign in the middle that reads “Let no one say, and say it to your shame, That all was beauty here, until you came.” Shutterstock

Bruce's Garden

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At the northernmost tip of Manhattan, you’ll find one of the city’s most delightful gardens adjacent to Isham Park just south of West 215th Street. The garden has been around since the 1970s, when its namesake, Bruce Reynolds, volunteered in the park. It benefits from mature trees and lush plantings, and there’s a meandering path with a few benches and a gazebo, along with ornamental flowers and two beehives. It was renamed Bruce’s Garden in 2002 in honor of Reynolds, who died in the September 11th attacks while on duty as a Port Authority Police Officer.

Willis Ave Community Garden

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Encompassing four city lots, this South Bronx green space is on the larger side for a community garden. It’s been a well-tended site since 1997, and a generous donation in 2014 allowed for a much-needed upgrade that included building a 12’ by 36’ casita—proudly decked with Puerto Rican flags—a compost toilet, a regraded lawn, a mulched picnic area, and new plants along the border and pathways, including leafy vines and birch trees.

Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum

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The historic Bartow-Pell Mansion is not a secret; its Greek Revival interiors are considered to be one of the finest examples in the country. What’s lesser-known is that its gardens and grounds are free and open to the public daily from 8:30 a.m. to dusk. The formal terraced gardens were designed by architects Delano & Aldrich in 1915, and each of the four quadrants is encased within a masonry wall with a square pool at the center. Rotating sculpture installations dot the landscape.

A historic stone house situated in the middle of a park. It has formal gardens with grass and flowers in its front yard, and there is a small body of water surrounded by stone pavers. Courtesy Bartow Pell Mansion Museum

Windmill Community Garden

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A relative newcomer to the garden scene, the Windmill Community Garden opened in 2016 after a group of Long Island City residents took initiative to transform the formerly vacant lot on 29th Street between 39th and 40th avenues. The 25’ by 100’ garden is a mix of passive seating areas and planting beds. They partner with Flux Factory, an art gallery across the street, for temporary exhibitions and events like block parties.

Smiling Hogshead Ranch

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This ragtag urban farm is most notable for its location on a disused spur of the LIRR, directly beside Sunnyside Yards, the country’s busiest rail junction, and surrounded by warehouses. Guerilla gardeners saw potential when they first put down roots in 2011, and when the MTA caught on, they worked with the volunteers to turn the lot into an officially sanctioned community garden. Today, the old rails act as a main path through the garden, leading visitors by pergola-covered picnic tables at the front, personal planting plots, a brightly painted patio, to finally a more passive wooded area that’s been left wild. They host regular events that are open to the public.

Green Dome

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With a track, sports fields, tennis courts, and swimming pool, it’s near impossible to escape the cacophony of activity in McCarren Park. But at the southwest corner along North 12th Street, you’ll find one of north Brooklyn’s best-kept secrets: the Green Dome Garden, a designated quiet zone and bloom-filled oasis. Named for its neighbor, the green dome-topped Russian Orthodox Cathedral, the 2,500-square-foot green space has a Belgium block pathway, multiple plant habitats, and plenty of seating. It’s open daily from 9 a.m. until dusk. Drop in to catch your breath, read a book, or just smell the Casablanca Lilies.

Naval Cemetery Landscape

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After nearly a century closed to the public, the Brooklyn Naval Cemetery reopened at the end of May sporting new walkways, plantings, and signage. The revitalization of the Naval Cemetery Landscape is part of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative’s mission to activate and create more public green space in its namesake borough. Marvel Architects and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects designed the park to pay homage to the 2,000 naval officers and Marines laid to rest at the site (the known remains have since been exhumed and moved to Cypress Hills) with its winding observation path, memorial meadow, and “sacred grove.”

Gil Hodges Community Garden

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Also known as the Carroll Street Garden, this little slice of Brooklyn got an upgrade in 2013 that turned it into a water-absorbing cog in the area’s green infrastructure. Now, it helps improve the health of the nearby Gowanus Canal, with permeable pavers, flood-tolerant plants, and a rain garden that absorb 150,000 gallons of stormwater each year. There’s a birch reading grove and patio with seating, plus an outdoor classroom with raised planting beds and a composting station. And lest you think the stench of the Gowanus Canal hangs over the garden, it has a specially curated fragrance walk with sweet magnolia, orange azalea, mountainmint, and ruby spice summersweet.

New York Chinese Scholar's Garden

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Located within the Snug Harbor Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, this oasis comes complete with moon gates, lots of rocky landscaped features, and eight picturesque pavilions, with paths zigzagging through a bamboo forest, waterfalls, and a koi pond. It’s based on gardens from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), and it’s only one of two authentic outdoor Chinese gardens in the United States. All of the built elements—bridges, columns, beams, tiles, windows, and doors—were fabricated in Suzhou, China.

Joe Holzka Community Garden

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With its abundance of outdoor space, Staten Island seems an unlikely place for a hidden garden tended by locals, but the desire to transform empty lots into something lush and living spans every borough. The West Brighton site of the Holzka Community Garden had been vacant for more than a decade after a fire when locals decided to turn it into a garden in 1994. Today it has about 30 active members who grow flowers, fruits, and vegetables. There’s a gazebo and shed, and a towering central pine that’s lit up for the holidays. It’s generally open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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6BC Botanical Garden

The East Village is rife with community gardens, and 6BC, named for its location on East 6th Street between Avenues B and C, is one of the most famous. The nearly 40-year-old garden has evolved from a place where locals tended small plots to a verdant space dedicated to biodiversity and horticulture education. The lush, otherworldly environs include a small fish pond, a meandering brick path, and a pergola and trellis wrapped in blooming vines. It’s generally open on weekends from noon to 6 p.m. and weekdays after 6 p.m., but if you swing by and the gate is closed, there are at least two dozen other gardens within a two-block radius to sate your need for nature.

The Church of St. Luke in the Fields

The West Village is dotted with publicly accessible gardens, but the Garden at the Church of Saint Luke in the Fields is unique because of its location. It’s in the neighborhood’s historic district on the corner of Hudson and Barrow streets, so it benefits from more light and open sky than gardens tucked in tight lots between rowhouses. Plus, it’s blocked from the bustle of the streets by brick walls, so it’s quieter, too. Inside, you’ll find an oasis filled with leafy trees, wildflowers, blooming bushes, and carefully manicured gardens that attract over 100 species of birds and two dozen types of butterflies and moths. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to dusk, but closed on holidays.

Tudor City Greens

The gardens of Tudor City feel hidden partly because they’re not wholly accessible at street level; when you approach on East 42nd Street, you have to go up one of two staircases located on either side of the street, and a bridge connects the two block-long parks. When the development first opened in the late 1920s, the gardens served as a reprieve from the industrial activity and pollution on the East River. Today they offer a quiet escape from the chaos of the city, just blocks from Grand Central and the United Nations. They’re open to the public daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

Trees, shrubbery, and other plants in a small park. There is a gravel pathway and buildings behind the park. Shutterstock

Heather Garden

Some of the city’s best secret gardens are hidden within bigger parks. Such is the case with Heather Garden, a sloping three-acre piece of Fort Tryon Park that offers views of the Hudson River. Designed in 1935 by the Olmsted brothers and planted with a mix of trees (elm, yew, dogwood), flowering shrubs (azaleas, old world roses, hydrangeas), and perennials—including one of the largest collections of heath and heather on the East Coast—the garden is one to visit in every season.

A field of flowers in shades of pink, green, and white. There is a sign in the middle that reads “Let no one say, and say it to your shame, That all was beauty here, until you came.” Shutterstock

Bruce's Garden

At the northernmost tip of Manhattan, you’ll find one of the city’s most delightful gardens adjacent to Isham Park just south of West 215th Street. The garden has been around since the 1970s, when its namesake, Bruce Reynolds, volunteered in the park. It benefits from mature trees and lush plantings, and there’s a meandering path with a few benches and a gazebo, along with ornamental flowers and two beehives. It was renamed Bruce’s Garden in 2002 in honor of Reynolds, who died in the September 11th attacks while on duty as a Port Authority Police Officer.

Willis Ave Community Garden

Encompassing four city lots, this South Bronx green space is on the larger side for a community garden. It’s been a well-tended site since 1997, and a generous donation in 2014 allowed for a much-needed upgrade that included building a 12’ by 36’ casita—proudly decked with Puerto Rican flags—a compost toilet, a regraded lawn, a mulched picnic area, and new plants along the border and pathways, including leafy vines and birch trees.

Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum

The historic Bartow-Pell Mansion is not a secret; its Greek Revival interiors are considered to be one of the finest examples in the country. What’s lesser-known is that its gardens and grounds are free and open to the public daily from 8:30 a.m. to dusk. The formal terraced gardens were designed by architects Delano & Aldrich in 1915, and each of the four quadrants is encased within a masonry wall with a square pool at the center. Rotating sculpture installations dot the landscape.

A historic stone house situated in the middle of a park. It has formal gardens with grass and flowers in its front yard, and there is a small body of water surrounded by stone pavers. Courtesy Bartow Pell Mansion Museum

Windmill Community Garden

A relative newcomer to the garden scene, the Windmill Community Garden opened in 2016 after a group of Long Island City residents took initiative to transform the formerly vacant lot on 29th Street between 39th and 40th avenues. The 25’ by 100’ garden is a mix of passive seating areas and planting beds. They partner with Flux Factory, an art gallery across the street, for temporary exhibitions and events like block parties.

Smiling Hogshead Ranch

This ragtag urban farm is most notable for its location on a disused spur of the LIRR, directly beside Sunnyside Yards, the country’s busiest rail junction, and surrounded by warehouses. Guerilla gardeners saw potential when they first put down roots in 2011, and when the MTA caught on, they worked with the volunteers to turn the lot into an officially sanctioned community garden. Today, the old rails act as a main path through the garden, leading visitors by pergola-covered picnic tables at the front, personal planting plots, a brightly painted patio, to finally a more passive wooded area that’s been left wild. They host regular events that are open to the public.

Green Dome

With a track, sports fields, tennis courts, and swimming pool, it’s near impossible to escape the cacophony of activity in McCarren Park. But at the southwest corner along North 12th Street, you’ll find one of north Brooklyn’s best-kept secrets: the Green Dome Garden, a designated quiet zone and bloom-filled oasis. Named for its neighbor, the green dome-topped Russian Orthodox Cathedral, the 2,500-square-foot green space has a Belgium block pathway, multiple plant habitats, and plenty of seating. It’s open daily from 9 a.m. until dusk. Drop in to catch your breath, read a book, or just smell the Casablanca Lilies.

Naval Cemetery Landscape

After nearly a century closed to the public, the Brooklyn Naval Cemetery reopened at the end of May sporting new walkways, plantings, and signage. The revitalization of the Naval Cemetery Landscape is part of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative’s mission to activate and create more public green space in its namesake borough. Marvel Architects and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects designed the park to pay homage to the 2,000 naval officers and Marines laid to rest at the site (the known remains have since been exhumed and moved to Cypress Hills) with its winding observation path, memorial meadow, and “sacred grove.”

Gil Hodges Community Garden

Also known as the Carroll Street Garden, this little slice of Brooklyn got an upgrade in 2013 that turned it into a water-absorbing cog in the area’s green infrastructure. Now, it helps improve the health of the nearby Gowanus Canal, with permeable pavers, flood-tolerant plants, and a rain garden that absorb 150,000 gallons of stormwater each year. There’s a birch reading grove and patio with seating, plus an outdoor classroom with raised planting beds and a composting station. And lest you think the stench of the Gowanus Canal hangs over the garden, it has a specially curated fragrance walk with sweet magnolia, orange azalea, mountainmint, and ruby spice summersweet.

New York Chinese Scholar's Garden

Located within the Snug Harbor Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, this oasis comes complete with moon gates, lots of rocky landscaped features, and eight picturesque pavilions, with paths zigzagging through a bamboo forest, waterfalls, and a koi pond. It’s based on gardens from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), and it’s only one of two authentic outdoor Chinese gardens in the United States. All of the built elements—bridges, columns, beams, tiles, windows, and doors—were fabricated in Suzhou, China.

Joe Holzka Community Garden

With its abundance of outdoor space, Staten Island seems an unlikely place for a hidden garden tended by locals, but the desire to transform empty lots into something lush and living spans every borough. The West Brighton site of the Holzka Community Garden had been vacant for more than a decade after a fire when locals decided to turn it into a garden in 1994. Today it has about 30 active members who grow flowers, fruits, and vegetables. There’s a gazebo and shed, and a towering central pine that’s lit up for the holidays. It’s generally open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.