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Stepping Along with Kate

On a cold but civil February day, I met my friend Millie Margiotta in Hammarskjold park to take delivery on five engraved stepping stones destined for the Katharine Hepburn Garden. The stones bear quotations of Katharine Hepburn, and Millie had them made as samples. Although the likes of William Shakespeare are more apt to be quoted than our beloved Kate, the actress did come out with some original pronouncements, such as "Enemies are so stimulating" - thoughts that remind us of her independent nature and impetuous spirit. Then there are her memorable movies that garnered 12 Oscar nominations of which Hepburn won four. The titles of great film classics like African Queen, Adam's Rib, and The Lion in Winter can also be rendered with images onto stone.

To fund this project, we will invite individuals and groups to sponsor an engraved stepping stone. The minimum contribution would cover our cost of engraving and installing the stone, plus a donation for the garden's upkeep. A plaque will be installed on the wall, near the garden's entrance, bearing the names of all contributors and listed according to level of contribution.

The engraved samples can be viewed by following the garden path through the garden. There are five in all. Enter through the gate at the Holocaust Memorial Wall.

Major Planting
This spring, we will undertake a major replanting of the Katharine Hepburn Garden, which includes all the nonpaved area of Hammarskjold park. Last year, we were able to install an irrigation system thanks to support from the Greenacre Foundation. Now we want to replant shrubs that were lost during droughts and create a lush oasis with the addition of perennial groundcovers and flowers. The garden will retain its naturalistic design while being enhanced with a variety of texture and color. We are fortunate to have Tom Ching, Manhattan Parks Manager and Director of Horticulture, working closely with us, and park architect George Vellonakis can be counted upon to keep us on track.

Our fundraising target for the planting is $20,000, which includes a gardener working at least eight hours a week during the growing season to direct the volunteers and perform horticultural maintenance.

Even the beleaguered beds in front of the iron fence will get a face lift with seasonal plantings of colorful annuals and groundcover. Plastic netting will be installed to keep the pigeons and dogs at bay.

Crusade for Parks
Friends of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza is an nonprofit organization, and while we work closely with the Turtle Bay Association and other neighborhood groups, we are separate and autonomous, and we need your support. Were it not for our dedicated volunteers and your generous contributions, Dag Hammarksjold Plaza would quickly revert to an eyesore, even with its magnificent new design. For example, the fountains alone cost us $7,000 to maintain from May to October.

You may well ask, "Shouldn't the city do that?" The answer is, yes, it should. But ten years of budget cuts have decimated park staffing. The city's annual budget allocates less than 0.5 percent to park maintenance and operations, leaving community groups or Business Improvement Districts (BIDS) to fill the gap. Don't be misled by headlines trumpeting the city's ambitious program of park restorations and acquisition of new parkland - that's Capital Funding, replete with the political fanfare of ribbon cuttings, ground-breakings and photo ops. Meanwhile, day-to-day park management and maintenance continues to fall by the wayside. While we commend the city's "Partnership for Parks" program that lends guidance and support to groups like ours, we believe that city government is on a precarious course, abdicating a fundamental responsibility to adequately care for a park system that encompasses some 28,000 acres, of which Dag Hammarskjold Plaza comprises 1.5 acres.

This year, community groups throughout the five boroughs are banding together in a Crusade for Parks to make the condition of our public parks an election-year issue. Stay tuned for updates. In the meantime, join us in making Dag Hammarskjold Plaza and its Katharine Hepburn Garden the pride of Turtle Bay.

Special Acknowledgement. We wish to thank Sage Realty Corporation for sponsoring the lighted trees in the fountains. The twinkling trees illuminated the park during the dark days of winter, creating such a lovely sight that we left them up until the end of February. In particular, we commend Jane Bernard for working with Friends of DHP to make the signage and fountain art an elegant decorative touch.


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The Turtle Bay Association is a nonprofit (501c3) community organization.

224 East 47th Street, New York City 10017
(212) 751-5465
Fax (212) 751-4941


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