Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hua Mei Bird Garden

Recently, for the first time, I came upon the Hua Mei Bird Garden in Sara D. Roosevelt Park on the Lower East Side at Chinatown's edge. The garden has been around officially since 1995, but you'll miss it, too, unless you're up and walking in the early morning.



Hanging in trees, from poles, around the chain-link fence, and sitting on the leafy ground, are dozens of beautiful bamboo bird cages, some half shrouded in white cloths, most of them ornately carved, and all containing a songbird.

Many of the birds are small--colorful finches, a few black-capped chickadees--but some are the Hua Mei, a fighting thrush from China for whom the park was named.






Socializing around the cages are the elderly Chinese men who own them. Wrote the Times in 2007, "Most of the men who come to listen to them are retired; the oldest are in their late 80s. Yui Kang, who has been coming to the Hua Mei Bird Garden since the mid-1990s and has been collecting songbirds for more than 50 years, is known as the chief. 'We are old men,' he said the other day. 'We like bringing the birds and drinking the coffee. We feel better.'"



The park was born, informally, in the early 1980s, due to the location of a pet store across the street, reported the Times in 1994, "which sold hua mei and their favorite snack, live crickets." A trip to the park became the birds'--and the men's--daily constitutional.



Stumbling upon the scene is a bit surreal. It reminds you that surprises can still happen in New York City, where so much surprise is vanishing. The birds and their cages are beautiful. I stayed and watched them for awhile. It isn't easy to look at a caged bird. They are constantly in motion, hopping from perch to perch, as if frantically looking for a way back into the sky.

I felt both grateful and sad for their presence there, in those lovely cages, making that incredible music.

Listen here:



11 comments:

Sue Rock said...

I can not thank you enough for this treasure - My husband and I will make the effort to document and experience this delightful and divine NY experience! You are a gem ~ (How COOL!)

Ivan said...

Excellent post. Just when you think that NYC has nothing unique left to offer, along comes this tidbit. The immigrant communities have a lot to offer.

Ms. said...

Perfect.precious and perfect. I'm not much of a morning person when it comes to being with others out there, preferring public mingling at afternoons and evenings but I will be making a pilgrimage to this site. Can't thank you enough.

onemorefoldedsunset said...

What a beautiful discovery. Thanks.

Tom said...

Thank you for the information! I will definitely look for this when I'm in the area.

Anonymous said...

And this is the reason why it's important to protect the residents of immigrant neighborhoods from block busters and developers. We already have enough CRAP in the East Village, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, etc. We don't need an expansion of CRAP.

I've harped on this time and time again, it's essential to protect the ethnic fabrics of each area and the beauty of each culture whether you like it or not.

Not everything needs to be "artisanal", over priced lattes and cupcakes on every corner. No, I am not talking about the UES, or UWS, I am talking about these poser wannabes who move to the EV or Billyburg from Cali and want all of their overpriced treats on demand. Get them the F&k outta here please.



goatsflee said...

Lovely.

Anonymous said...

This is an example of how the ethnic neighborhoods of NYC are a treasure of interesting traditions, people, food and culture and one of the best and most vibrant things about NYC. I saw these bird cages one morning and was charmed by the whole concept and its beauty and had one of those wistful "I love NY" moments

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this thoughtful post-it is both incredibly beautiful and sad to see a bird in a cage, knowing it wants to soar to the treetops and yet you feel joy to see its delicate beauty so close and hear its chatter and songs.

laura r. said...

this is good news, made my day. i even put the photo on my desktop. that is my favorite part of NY, have spent many hrs sitting in chinatown parks. please continue to report the UN vanished!

laura r. said...

lets hope the ONEWORLD malls wont be in chinatown, anytime soon. i know there are also parts of brooklyn where the chinese have large communities. maybe the new mayor can intervene & make parts of chinatown a hertiage site. am i dreaming?