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New Yorkers get backyard experience, for fee

The first sign that something strange is happening on Ludlow Street is the fence, which is long and green and decidedly out of place amid a cluster of city buildings. Peer through its holes and things get even more confusing: Is that a backyard? In the middle of Manhattan?

Yes, yes it is. And it's yours to rent for just $100 an hour.

Wedged between two buildings in the East Village, the "Timeshare Backyard" is back for the second summer in a row -- and New Yorkers desperate for some fresh air are taking full advantage of it. Aside from the taxis honking their horns just beyond the fence -- not to mention the graffiti-covered brick walls -- the place actually bears some resemblance to a real backyard, albeit a very hip one.

"I thought I was definitely moving away from the, you know, barbecue set," said Elliot Firestone, 22, from Portland, Ore., who recently moved to New York City and was pouring lighter fluid over charcoals. "I was thinking more of going out to eat at restaurants all the time. And, you know, pizza. Not exactly barbecues."

But barbecues are exactly the sort of thing that Jessica Resler and her business partner, Jacqui Kavanagh, had in mind when they dreamed up the Timeshare Backyard last year. The idea was rooted in nostalgia for the backyards they left behind upon becoming New Yorkers. What they really wanted, Resler said, was a green refuge from sweltering summers in the city.

"When we first launched it, we thought, 'Oh maybe this will be interesting to about 30 people,' " Resler said. "And one day we walked into our office and we had 1,000 emails come in from people that wanted to rent the space or were curious about it."

The duo stumbled across this lot, which is a stalled construction site, near their office one day last year. Misrahi Realty, the real estate company that owns it, was happy to let them rent it out.

The place comes stocked with all kinds of backyard essentials, including a charcoal grill, plastic coolers, lounge chairs and hula hoops, among other amenities.

"If it could stay vacant forever, it would be the best secret little garden in all of Manhattan," said Lorence Dippolito, vice president of leasing for Misrahi Realty.

Unfortunately for backyard lovers, it won't be vacant for much longer. Plans are in the works to begin construction on a building here sometime during the next year or two.

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