Cars, cars, cars. It seems that they are everywhere and everyone has one, two or three in the family. A car is very convenient for getting around especially for those of us in Queens where transportation services are limited and slow but when we get where we are going we all face the problem of parking. Countless time and energy is spent looking for the elusive parking spot. In desperation some homeowners have illegally converted their front yards into a parking lots all over Queens. Where there was a beautiful garden there is now a cement slab, which contributes to our flooding problems because cement is not good drainage! Some even make curb cuts, which is illegal to do and also removes a space for street parking. Others who have garages have converted them illegally into living space. If they used their garages the parking problems would be considerably eased.

This trend has angered local residents who want to preserve the character of their neighborhoods. Because of the loss of green space there is less area to absorb water during a storm and the runoff overwhelms the sewer system and causes millions of gallons of raw sewage to be discharged into our waterways.

Recently in April 2010 NYC adopted regulations that ensures that new developments provide green space in front of the building and strengthens laws against curb cuts and parking in the front yard.

Queens has seen a rise in population, and land values have developers buying a property with one or two families with a yard and putting up a four and six family or an apartment house without any green spaces. Thankfully groups like the Juniper Civic have worked to downzone their neighborhoods to prevent the loopholes that were causing overdevelopment. To the developers who want maximize living space; the front yard and backyard became almost non-existent.

Maybe today the yard and garden has lost some of its appeal because entire families work, the TV has 200 channels, the home is air-conditioned and the kids play computer games. However, to many residents the yard is their sanctuary, a place to get away without going anywhere.

Many of us have fond memories of a special neighbor who had the most beautiful garden. Others may remember having a Victory Garden during Word War II when food was scarce and it helped the war effort. Today there is a trend for locally grown food and the need for connecting with the Earth by planting a seed and watching something grow and teaching children the wonders of nature.

My grandparents bought a home in Maspeth in 1943 and wanted a garden. We still have a rose bush they planted and it still smells sweet and I still have a watering can they gave me as a little boy. When my daughter was born we had a tree planted in front of the house and now it’s fully grown, like my daughter! Trees and gardens improve our quality of life by  giving us beauty and studies have been made that indicate a green space can make us healthier by lowering the blood pressure and giving us a sense of well being.

From a modest home in Queens to a multi-million dollar apartment in Manhattan a big selling point with a house is a garden. From a roof top garden or a shared courtyard to a balcony with a garden you can beautify your home and neighborhood and increase the value of your property.

To start a garden or just to beautify your yard doesn’t require a lot of work. If your yard is all cement you may want to break up a section or if that’s too much to do then just get some flower pots and containers and you can grow flowers and vegetables, which can even be accomplished with just a balcony. Plant a tree in front of your home or in the yard and help improve our air quality and absorb lots of water to prevent flooding.

A little beauty goes a long way in improving our quality of life and retaining the character of our community. So preserve our green spaces and maybe when we  have to park the car a block away, the walk home will be a pleasant one!