before: a bare and messy urban lawn
Photo: David Burton
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Before: Cleaning Up and Clearing Out

Cleanup would prove to be the most challenging part of the project. Once I'd pulled up the deck, I set to work with a sledgehammer, breaking up the concrete walkways that ran beside it. Along with a lot of debris, I found remnants of a granite slab that was probably as old as the house, which was built in 1903. I planned a patio for the middle of the yard, so I buried much of the broken concrete in the center—I figured it would help with drainage. Besides, throwing stuff out isn't easy in New York City. I had to bag any trash and set it on the curb with the garbage after hauling it through the house, which is 40 feet deep and has narrow hallways. And I could leave out only a few bags at a time.
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