|Photo courtesy of Partnerships for Parks
The beautiful blooms planted by the Jamestown Police Department's volunteer group at Thomas Jefferson Park in New York City
Blooming flowers are a worldwide representation of renewal, new life and hope. Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, New York City desperately needed just that -- a feeling of renewal, a reminder that, as the resiliant flowers that break through the snow and slush to bloom anew in spring, it too would rise again full of new life.
In this case, the beautiful visual representation of renewal was brought forth by an equally lovely series of gestures. Devastated by the tragic events of September 11th and wanting to extend a helping hand to New York in some way, Hans van Waardenburg of B&K Bulbs in the Netherlands contacted Lynden B.Miller, a landscape architect and now chairwoman of New Yorkers for Parks. She, too, had wanted to find a way to help her beloved city and responded by asking Hans if he had any extra bulbs to donate. More than just "extras," he donated half a million daffodil bulbs to the city. He called around and another 500,000 daffodils and 90,000 yellow tulips were also donated by the City of Rotterdam and Rotterdam’s Port Authority, eventually totalling more than 1.5 million donated bulbs from local and international generosity.
The response by New Yorkers as well as out-of-state residents was enormous, as thousands poured into the city that first fall to plant the bulbs. Thanks to the coordination of Partnerships for Parks, the Parks & Recreation Department, New Yorkers for Parks, and other parks groups, they quickly gathered 10,000 volunteers, planting 250,000 bulbs on the first day (October 20th) alone. The work became the Daffodil Project.
|Photo and caption from New Yorkers for Parks:"Lynden B.Miller, NY4P Co-Chair and founder of the Daffodil Project joins Alesa Blanchard Nelson, Daffodil Project Coordinator, for a respite on a bench in Queens' Lefferts Park."
The Daffodil Project is the largest volunteer, citizen-driven planting effort in New York’s history, with over 20,000 participants thus far. The planting work of volunteers each fall produces the beautiful blooms New York dresses itself with in spring. In fact, 2.5 million flowers have been planted in the city since the Fall of 2001, and the project shows no signs of slowing. More than just a way for New Yorkers to excersize their green thumb and beautify their beloved metropolis, the Daffodil Project is a living memorial for those who lost their lives on September 11th, and a regular reminder to the city's residents and to millions of visitors, that like the determined flowers, the city too is revitalizing and growing anew, yet never forgetting the harshness of the winter it conquered. Quite purposefully, the majority of the bulbs planted by the Daffodil Project are yellow, the color of remembrance.
|Photo Courtesy of Partnerships for Parks.
Volunteers are planting daffodils at DeWitt Clinton Park. The Daffodil Project was kicked off there. The family center (below) where people had to bring samples of their family member's DNA was directly across the street.
There are many reasons as to why daffodils are especially poignant flowers to plant in New York City. Primarily, daffodils are considered the flower of spring, a signal of the renewal of nature after the harshness of winter. They are ideal for urban areas in that they resist pollution and require little maintenance, replenishing themselves constantly, splitting off from themselves to form new flowers. Additionally, their bulbs are toxic by nature, helping them ward off hungry city squirrels in search of fresh spring blooms. In other words, the daffodils planted all throughout the city are like the city itself -steadfastly moving forward, diligently renewing itself, astonishingly strong, and yet strikingly beautiful.
The generosity continues, and for the third year in a row, Hans van Waardenburg has donated 500,000 bulbs to the Daffodil Project and says he plans to continue to do so so long as there is a need for them and others who share the vision. This act of immense generosity has been coupled with that of Joseph Temeczko, a Minnesotan handyman who willed his entire life-savings of $1.4 million to New York City, $300K of which will pay for the shipping of these precious bulbs for the following 5 years. Temeczko, who is said to have been a Nazi prison camp survivor, entered the U.S. through Ellis Island and lived for a time in New York City where he worked at the Statue of Liberty. Following September 11th, 2001, he redirected his estate "to honor those who perished in the disaster." An avid gardener, himself, he loved to share his garden's harvest with others, and passed away only a month later while working in his own garden. (Another portion of his estate will be used to renovate Chinatown's Columbus Park, making it safer for children.) Through these benevolent acts, along with the love and dedication of its coordinators and thousands of volunteers, the Daffodil Project is as beautiful in its blooming bulbs as it is in the generosity and outpouring of love that brings them to life.
MY HERO Spoke With Rowena Daly,
Spokesperson for New Yorkers for Parks
about the Daffodil Project
|Photo from New Yorkers for Parks
She told MY HERO:
"New York is a city of neighborhoods. The Daffodil Project links it all together. It is a common thread of yellow that bridges it all together.
It has been a powerful program that has helped New York AND New Yorkers by helping people get involved in their communities.
Being a "good American" doesn't mean [so many of the things the media and government tell the public]. It simply means participating in programs like this, getting involved in your community, feeling that your voice IS being heard.
Most people are not going to speak up unless they feel they have that voice, unless they are given a vehicle to do so. This has become that vehicle for community action. This project has provided the vehicle for people to get involved in their own communities; it has prompted positive civil responsibility.
What's especially nice about the Daffodil Project is that it is an "organically grown" one. People naturally started to meet in the parks following 9/11. So it was a natural progression for them to take to community action and involvement in those very parks.
This will also allow us, as park groups, to recognize the people that make a difference in our parks every day."
MY HERO also Spoke with
Eileen Stasny Remor, Volunteer Events Manager
for Partnerships for Parks
about the Daffodil Project
|Photo courtesy of Partnerships for Parks.
Eileen Stasny Remor is the woman in the blue sweater, planting on the day that Dzurinda,the Prime Minister of Slovakia, came to plant daffodil bulbs.
After the attacks on September 11th, I received numerous calls from people who wanted to volunteer. That's because I am the Volunteer Events Manager for Partnerships for Parks, a shared program of the Parks Department and City Parks Foundation, that helps connect people to parks. New Yorkers had already given blood, donated supplies, and money, but had a strong need to do something more. This included the employees of Partnerships for Parks and the Parks Department as a whole.
We couldn't save people's lives like EMS, NYPD and FDNY. Instead we worked to keep Parks clean and safe for the thousands, if not millions of people that gathered there.
I remember my sister saying after 9/11, that she didn't want to leave her house for a week. I said that in New York City, it was just the opposite. Everyone wanted to be outside, connecting with their neighbors. You didn't feel safe inside a building.
We and all New Yorkers needed to do something more. Many visitors as well. So we came up with a logical idea for any Parkie - plant bulbs. It is a very easy thing for large amounts of people to do. Plus, the result would be beautiful in the spring. Next we wondered where we'd get the bulbs.
Then a miracle happened.
Lynden Miller of New Yorkers for Parks was given a half of million daffodil bulbs from her bulb distributor in the Netherlands. The Mayor of Rotterdam heard the news and donated another half million. Then they kept on coming. Eventually we had close to two million bulbs.
It was crazy here for the couple of months after 9/11. Parks worked very hard to prepare parks for planting. We transported boxes and palettes of bulbs all over the city. We obtained a donation of 5000 trowels to plant the bulbs.
Now we had something for people to do.
I kept getting calls from volunteers and I quickly assigned them to a park. One day I received a call from a contact at the Harlem Y. He said that he had a group of 60 people, organized by the Jamestown, NY Police Department, that were coming to New York the following day and they wanted to help. He didn't know what to do with them. I said that they were welcome to plant daffodils. They got on a bus at midnight, drove all night and were at a Harlem Park the next morning, planting daffodils. I called the local NYPD precinct who were very happy to welcome the Jamestown Police to New York.
Being a Slovak American, I am on an email list from the Slovak Embassy. I received an email that Dzurinda, the Prime Minister of Slovakia was coming to New York City, to run in the New York City Marathon and visit a firehouse that lost a Slovak firefighter. I emailed back, asking if the Prime Minister would be interested in planting daffodils. The answer was yes!
Community groups, fire fighters, scouts, block associations, religious institutions, school groups, police officers, community gardeners and many more, all planted daffodils. In the end, 10,000 people were able to plant daffodils!
I feel honored to have been a part of the Daffodil Project. Though as great as it was, I do feel a little guilty talking about it at times. Afterall, we didn't save any of the three thousand lives that were lost that day. We just planted bulbs.
But we did make the city a little nicer, a little brighter for all the heroes and everyday people that are still with us.