"It’s very special to have outdoor space in Manhattan. It’s so valuable," says Madelyn Simon, CEO of Madelyn Simon Associates, that specializes in interior and exterior plantscapes. Simon’s past projects have included landscaping the butterfly vivarium at the American Museum of Natural History and decking out World Financial Center for the holidays. In or out of the city, open-air space designed for people to enjoy year-round adds enormously to the pleasure residents take in their home. Plus, investing in landscaping and building exteriors can add to the perceived value and desirability of a property.
Once a co-op or condo board has decided to develop its outdoor space, the board must agree on what the space is to be used for and then create a budget for the project. Then the board must choose a contractor to design and execute their idea. Their chosen design professionals "need to know realistically what effort [the board] is interested in making," instructs Simon. "For instance, if a client wants to enjoy the plants but doesn’t really want to be saddled with the watering, we can install irrigation systems."
Richard Heller, president of Mornhurst Gardens in the Bronx, a firm that does landscape design, installation and maintenance, recommends that a board choose one person to be in charge of the project and that the board allows that one person the latitude to make decisions. "Very often boards make the mistake of trying to take on the project as a board, and the problem is that you have conflicting tastes and interests. It’s sort of like passing a bill in Congress; you end up with a watered-down, pork-barrel-laden design, not something that really works architecturally."
Heller also strongly recommends using a professional designer, since there are so many issues to take into account. "Most people have no idea how big the plants are going to end up, or what their requirements are, and they don’t know what plants are pollution-resistant or theft-proof, or what the birds are going to eat." David Protell, president of Chelsea Garden Center, Inc. which has three locations in Manhattan, points out that there are security issues to consider as well; plants, trees, and planters should never block any views from the doorman or screen off any portion of the property.