The Bellevue Sobriety Garden is at the Bellevue Hospital Center, 462 First Avenue (at 28th Street) in Manhattan. Enter main entrance atrium, and proceed directly back (with the main flow of foot traffic) to the older part of Bellevue to the building known as "New Bellevue." This brings you to a central lobby with a giant mosaic of the city. Exit right through the brown sliding doors to the "south parking lot." The garden is ahead, just to your left. (If this is confusing, just ask Security how to get to the "south parking lot!")

About the Bellevue Sobriety Garden

The Bellevue Sobriety Garden is slated to be turned into a parking lot. Bulldozers are scheduled for July. Time is short. This is a call to action to prevent the destruction of a priceless resource.

Since 1989, the garden has been a sanctuary for patients, and increasingly for staff and visitors, who come to garden, meditate, and relax amidst the flowers, greenery and unique folk sculptures and mosaics. Built by recovering addicts, funded strictly by donations of time, supplies and money, it is a showcase therapeutic site.

The Bellevue Administration has the opportunity to show its leadership in creative recovery programs by stopping this parking lot! We believe that they will respond to public pressure to find a solution to staff parking without sacrificing this special space.

Bellevue Hospital Subriety Garden, Founded 1989

The garden sits on a wedge of land carved out on “the south lawn” of Bellevue Hospital, flanked by the main hospital building, the FDR drive on the east, 26th Street on the south, and “the south parking lot” on the west. It covers approximately 15,000 square feet. Part of it is cultivated in vegetables, much of it in flowers; its paths are created from mosaics and stones, heavily accented with “found objects;” folk sculptures and rustic art punctuate the space. Its home-grown, work-in-progress appearance, nurtured by scores of the predominantly poor and homeless patients Bellevue serves, creates an inspiring environment for all visitors.

The Garden Is Facing Its Greatest Threat Ever

New York City's Economic Development Corporation is about to break ground on the East River Science Park on 29th Street, causing Bellevue Hospital to lose 230 parking spots for three years. The hospital administration believes that the only solution is to reorganize the existing parking in “the south lot,” installing 4-story stackable parking lifts and extending the parking over the Bellevue Sobriety Garden to gain approximately 60 more spots.

The patients and staff are shocked and devastated to see their therapeutic garden facing destruction. The plans were drawn up in secret and announced in late May to the Addiction Recovery staff, whose members are under strict orders to not protest, at penalty of losing their jobs. Demolition is slated to take place by mid-July. Bellevue's administrators have proposed an smaller alternative site (6% of the current size) near the landscaped front entrance to the hospital, inappropriate for patient activity.

We are rallying to ask Bellevue to return to the drawing board to find a more imaginative solution. Steps can include undertaking a census as to who is really parking at Bellevue to determine whether they have a compelling need to do so; determining whether 60 cars can park elsewhere -- this step alone would save our garden.

Background of the Sobriety Garden

The patients that founded and cultivated the therapeutic garden since 1989 are members of the Bellevue’s chemical dependency rehabilitation clinics. Many are homeless and have medical and psychiatric conditions that complicate their efforts to establish a sound recovery. They struggle enormously to overcome their additions. The garden has been an invaluable complement to conventional treatments, which include 12- step programs, counseling, and medication, as it provides the only contact with nature and therapeutic gardening (with its endless metaphors of rebirth, hope and struggle) that most of these individuals have ever had.

The garden and is financed exclusively through voluntary donations. The Auxiliary to Bellevue Hospital is the organization that receives and monitors all of its funds. Donations by hundreds of individuals of time, hard work, money and supplies have created the garden – not just once, but in the numerous fresh starts it has been required to make. The founder and driving force behind the garden is the Director of Bellevue’s Chemical Dependency Outpatient Clinic. Fueled by her passionate belief in the therapeutic necessity of contact with nature for her patients, over the last 17 years she has devoted countless hours of labor, spent many tens of thousands of dollars of her own money, and (most difficultly of all) waged interminable battles with the hospital bureaucracy.

In December 2000, the Therapeutic Garden was hastily moved from its traditional site in the back of the old psychiatric building, between 29th and 30th Streets, to make way for a staff parking lot (which then became an extension of the city morgue following 9/11). A new site for the Garden was designated by the hospital at the “South Lawn,” atop the hospital's emergency generator diesel tanks. The garden experienced severe turmoil during 2003-2005, when two-thirds of its surface was excavated to install new fiberglass diesel tanks fourteen feet under the ground.

At the end of June 2005 volunteers started to reconstruct the marble mosaic paths and sitting areas, raised new planting area walls, repaired and restored raised vegetable bed walls, shoveled 31 yards of finely screened topsoil into the planting areas, repaired the watering system, built pink granite benches, raised a cement-covered Pergola to support the wisteria and climbing rose, sculpted two blue eyed cement lions to guard the pergola, and transplanted the plants which had been rescued during the tank excavation.

Please help us keep the garden for the patients, visitors and staff alike.

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