Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why Not, QBot?

It was Chinese New Year, so we went to Flushing, Queens (my first neighborhood, just newborn) to explore several dumpling and hot pot houses for lunch. My mother was surprised to hear me call Flushing Chinatown, then had to explain to her that the place we lived over 40 years ago is not the place she remembers. We were so full after the second place (a mall food court that blows mall food court experiences you've had out of Flushing Bay), and so many restaurants that return trips are warranted. I might add, if you're at all like me, once you eat in a Chinese community, you will resent having to go back to your corner takeout.

When LaGuardia's patterns take planes over Flushing it's at first disconcerting, and ultimately colludes with the taller buildings, Chinese printed signs, and busy sidewalks to create a more cosmopolitan feel than you might expect. You do feel as if you could peg the bottoms of the lifting, slow moving planes with a handball. The image above, made with an iphone's 4mm lens, pushes the plane farther away than it really is. It takes getting used to, but less so inside the Queens Botanical Garden.

I've intended to visit QBot for some time, ever since the construction of their new administrative/visitor building. It's LEED platinum certified, possibly the greenest building in NYC, and all that may mean zilch to a wayward polar bear. But to this guy, it's the only serious reason to visit this underfunded garden.

The three dimensional water feature -used to recycle runoff, process gray water, achieve modest outdoor cooling, for irrigation, and as a visual design element is the heart of this building. Systemic water, a merging of liquid functionality with the designed landscape is hardly common and it makes my heart beat a little faster. 

There were problems, of course, but all told these appear to be born of staff shortages or design quirks that can be addressed with some attention. The larger garden lacks a coherent design, lacks interest and given the resources poured into this new building and parking garden, it would serve Qbot to find a way to build a master plan that revisions the garden following these examples. They'll never be NYBot or even BBot, so be Qbot and give us a reason to travel to Flushing by offering something completely new, something so 21st century.

I think it's reasonable to keep people off green roofs. We want people to see, yes, but there should be a way that doesn't impact the plants. 

Mounded roses in a ringed circle?

An excess of funny, CNC machine-carved statuary?

Maybe a master plan that merges eco sensitivity with Chinese design, given the neighborhood in which Qbot resides? Many of the great eco-design landscape projects of late have been in China (Quinhuangdao Beach, Shanghai Houtan Park, Crosswater Ecolodge, etc. etc.). Qbot lacks space, but couldn't they access some of the wasted land of Flushing-Corona Park? Surely Flushing Creek (or what's left of it) could be cleaned and greened. Were you aware that many of NYC's early plant nurseries were this side of Flushing Creek (true -I've got maps)? Perhaps a China-NY partnership could help pay for such appreciation of the value of a growing Queens (Flushing soon to be the largest Chinese community outside of China) community. Could be awesome. 

But until my grand scheme comes to pass, we should revel in Cornus sanguinea, Winter Flame Dogwood. Brilliant on a gloomy day.

And snowdrops and hellebores, too.


  1. That first dish. We need to know where it is. Soon.

    I hate that mouse.

    1. He's a mailbox of some sort. I've a public map. Google maps, Flushing dumplings and see what happens.


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