Every spring in New York City, millions of bright yellow daffodils emerge from the ground, the surest sign of sunnier days ahead. But in September, they pop up again because, every fall, these beautiful blooms are planted in memory of 9/11 victims through The Daffodil Project.
Bulbs are available for free each autumn for any New Yorker who wants to contribute to the project, and you can sign up for an order right now. This year, around 600,000 bulbs are up for grabs.
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Here's how it works: Sign up for your bulbs here, which are available first-come, first-served. Registration opened yesterday, so be sure to sign up asap if you're interested.
When ordering, you'll choose where you'd like to pick up your order. There are six distribution sites this year, each one running from 10am-1pm:
- Sunday, September 17: Manhattan - Union Square North Plaza
- Saturday, September 23: Bronx - Mill Pond Park
- Sunday, September 24: Queens - Overlook at Forest Park
- Saturday, September 30: Staten Island - Brookfield Park
- Sunday, October 1: Brooklyn - Prospect Park Plaza West
- Saturday, October 7: Queens - Far Rockaway at the RISE Center at 58-03 Rockaway Beach Blvd
Once you collect your bulbs, it's time to plant. If you want to plant in a local park, be sure to contact the park to ask for permission first.
10 million bulbs in 22 years
Over the years, The Daffodil Project has planted 10 million bulbs with the help of 500,000 volunteers.
“There’s no corner of the city that hasn’t been a part of this project,” Adam Ganser, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks tells Time Out New York. "It's considered the largest living memorial to 9/11."
The program began when Dutch daffodil supplier Hans van Waardenburg and the City of Rotterdam gifted the city 1 million daffodils as a show of goodwill right after the September 11, 2001 attacks. It turned into an annual program, only paused once amid the pandemic. Even today, the bulbs are still sourced from the Netherlands, said Sherrise Palomino, who runs The Daffodil Project at New Yorkers for Parks.
It's considered the largest living memorial to 9/11.
Volunteers range from individuals who pick up 50 bulbs to schools and neighborhood organizations who pick up thousands of bulbs.
"Over the years it's also evolved into a way for people to volunteer and get active in their community and to really start to focus on the importance of public open space in New York City," Ganser says.
For those who lost loved ones during the 9/11 attacks, the project provides solace and sanctuary. "When you layer on that deep level of emotional connection to the project, it’s really moving," Ganser adds.
Over the past two decades, volunteers have filled the city with these golden perennials, and they sprout everywhere from parks to sidewalk tree beds to planters along the West Side Highway, each one a remembrance.
The program is run by New Yorkers for Parks, an independent nonprofit championing quality open space for all New Yorkers. The nonprofit raises money each year to make sure the bulbs remain free of cost. Though New Yorkers for Parks partners with local parks, the organization is separate from the city’s parks department.
1% for parks
Even though New Yorkers for Parks is separate from the parks department, the nonprofit is pushing New York City officials to provide more money to parks. Anyone who orders bulbs will see an option to sign a petition requesting that the city allocate 1% of its budget to parks.
Here’s the backstory on the funding issue, Ganser explains: Before NYC’s fiscal crisis in the 1970s, parks were funded at 1.5% of the city budget; funding then dropped to 0.5% and it’s barely increased since. Right now, parks are funded at about 0.6% of the city’s budget, he explained, while most other big cities allocate 1-5% on parks. That funding is crucial, Ganser contends, especially as New York City grapples with climate change, urban heat islands, and issues of equity and access.