Verdi Square, Once Known for Rats, Now Has a ‘Meadow’ and New Benches

Verdi Square on Broadway between 72nd and 73rd Streets has been known for lots of things over the past few decades, from heroin to rats. But a community group dedicated to cleaning it up is getting recognized for bringing out the square’s other attributes — flowers and birds. In fact, the square’s gardens are now split into three areas: The Woodland, The Meadow, and The Rose Garden.

“The Woodland is the name given to the newly designed garden surrounding the Giuseppe Verdi monument; The Meadow is the raised garden on the Broadway side of Verdi Square and The Rose Garden is planted in two raised granite beds featuring four cast iron urns. The garden design is inspired by community interest in a safe, beautiful and ecologically sustainable green space accessible to all, and includes only indigenous New York City plant species that are proven to thrive in the urban environment.”

New benches have also been placed in the park. The Friends of Verdi Square, the group that started cleaning the square up with the help of the NYC Parks Department last year, will be recognized with a ribbon-cutting on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver will be there, along with local politicians.

Friends of Verdi Square was founded by Aleya Lehmann, who brought together volunteer gardeners led by New York Botanical Garden botanist Daniel Atha.

Lehmann gave us an update on the rat situation: “One of the NYC Parks crew members, Mike Kelin, was given an award from the Mayor’s office a few weeks ago: Neighborhood Rat Reduction Award, for his hard work at Verdi Square; I think it will be an ongoing effort, there are weekly abatements, just because of the subway, pigeon feeding and restaurants, but it is essentially rat-free, although there are occasional sightings . . . not bad, all things considered!”

The work of the volunteers has been consistent and impressive. Friends of Verdi Square has the stats:

“Since January 2019, two dozen volunteer gardeners have contributed 1,360 hours—in all kinds of weather—during 34 Saturday mornings; 4,138 square feet of terrain has been cleared; 348 bags of weeds removed; over 100 species of plants native to the region planted; and 58 rat burrows eliminated. Each day, thousands of area residents, transit riders and visitors are enjoying the transformed public space. The Friends have 356 members so far, plus 144 signatures of supporters on its clipboards, 44 businesses on the park’s perimeter have joined the Friends’ Business Council and 20 noted individuals have joined the newly established Advisory Council. The Friends group has also established a Founding Donor campaign, and is actively seeking donations to finish planting in time for the September 2019 ribbon cutting.”

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 30 comments | permalink
    1. EGF says:

      Well done and thank you!

    2. MDZ says:

      Upper West Siders at their best, so inspiring, thank you!

    3. mamaebbes says:


    4. Ethan says:

      Very lovely and thank you. But I kind of miss the rats. Sure, they were filthy and no doubt carried disease, etc. But they were OUR rats.

    5. Robynn Delin says:

      This is a welcome change to the neighborhood. I have been living in this area for a long time and remember when it wasn’t safe to walk past this park. Bravo to all who helped in the transition.

    6. Bob Lamm says:

      Wonderful effort. Many thanks to Ms. Lehmann, Mr. Kelin, and everyone else who’s helped in this restoration.

    7. Richard James says:

      Fifteen year resident, thank you!!!

    8. Anne Livingston says:

      Thank you— it is very beautiful. But my 13 year old dog DOES miss the rats — lol! They really entertained him on our nightly walks! 🙂

    9. LSL says:

      It is really transformed and quite lovely. Thank you for all you are doing!

    10. James says:

      Thank You

    11. Pedestrian says:

      Thank you! A bright light in a darkening world.

    12. chrispy says:

      Very nice and thank you. But hope this works to improve the immediate area. We’ve been noticing, to our dismay, that the Broadway blocks between 72 & 70 by Trader Joes has gotten exceedingly crowded and seedy in the past year. Besides many panhandlers, the block is filled with shoppers, commuters, garbage, and closed stores. Looking like Hell’s Kitchen in the 90’s.

    13. Marie says:

      Fantastic job…thank you so much !
      Love this neighborhood so much and it great to see this beautiful transformation

    14. Jordo says:

      Thank you to those who have cleaned up Verdi Square! There used to be “no smoking” signs in a few places on the fences of Verdi Square, but the have recently disappeared and been replaced with “don’t feed the animals” signs. Does anyone know why? I thought smoking was banned (although not necessarily enforced) in all NYC parks. Maybe Verdi Square is not considered a park…

    15. Rat A. Tooey says:

      To da Edita:

      About “but it is essentially rat-free”

      Dat’s true! Me and m’bruvvers hardly goes dere anymore cause too many of dem anti-rat-ers around.

      You’d tink we was Trump-supporters or sumpin da way dey shreeks when dey sees one of us !

    16. Dora Issacharoff says:

      We should do this flower planning all over the city. Congratulations to the citizens in charge.

    17. Rick Titone says:

      Just had breakfast there today. It’s a wonderful space for the neighborhood. Kudos to those who have worked so hard to fix it up!

    18. Cassandra says:

      Nicely done, Friends of Verdi Square! It looks fantastic!

      (It would look even better without the homeless encampments).

    19. UWSSurfer says:

      It is so beautiful! Thank you to all of The Friends of Verdi Square!

    20. NotImpressed says:

      Three cheers to our neighbors who made this happen!

    21. ellesse says:

      Yes, It was a big surprise to see bistro style tables and chairs, reminiscent of what is in Bryant Park…but there is an unholy putrid stench that has me avoiding that side of the street entirely!

    22. Matt says:

      What a transformation. I stop many times to absorbe the changes to Verdi Square. Thank you all volunteers. Now we need to do something about the pigeons. Been pooped on to many times sitting under the trees.

    23. Doug Turner says:

      Congratulations for making this area so clean, beautiful and a place to sit Meditate or even meet a friend. So well done!

    24. Simcha Rabinowitz says:

      The park looks great. Unfortunately, there are a lot of vagrants that create an unhealthy atmosphere. I would not bring my kids there because of the undesirable folks that hand out in Verdi Square.

    25. Fred Ryan says:

      Well done.