Preparing for Big Apple at the Core of Shady Activities

Come next spring, 20 native Californians will leave the sunshine of the Mojave Desert for a life in Manhattan.

The transplants won’t be the human variety, however: They will be 45-foot-tall washingtonia rubusta palm trees, also known as Mexican fan palms. The palms are growing under a a woven plastic-screen shade area to acclimate them to survive under only 800 foot-candles of light, according to Joe Ellis. His firm, Ellis Farms, Borrego Springs, specializes in growing ornamental palms.

“Palm trees like these normally receive 4,500 foot-candles on a typical summer day, so we have to drastically cut down the light they receive so the trees can thrive inside a building in lower Manhattan,” he said.

Following a 3,000-mile journey by truck next May, the trees will form a stately interior grove in the 130-foot-high Wintergarden Pavilion under construction by Olympia & York in Battery City Park. The pavilion will be a centerpiece of the firm’s 6-million-square-foot World Finance Center.

Native to Baja California, the palms should thrive in the dry air of the pavilion, Ellis said. The pavilion will include restaurants and the palms will bring a touch of home to Californians visiting the Big Apple.