This is the second in a series on a selection of some of the many community gardens in the East Village in Manhattan, New York.
- East Village Gardens 1 – E 9th Street
- East Village Gardens 3
- East Village Gardens 4
- East Village Gardens 5
The 11th Street Community Garden between 1st Avenue and Avenue A. This formerly overgrown, litter strewn lot wedged between two tenements was converted into a garden in 1982 and is tended by volunteers. It contains mature plantings of trees, shrubs and perennials, a sheltered picnic area, and brick paths. Every weekend in the summer, the community comes together for barbeques and poetry readings. Over 60 members help maintain the numerous flowers, vegetables and herbs. This garden has the support of community board three to remain a permanent garden site.
The Manhattan Land Trust, which helps manage the garden along with its local volunteers, saved the gardens from auction by the Trust for Public Land in 1999. Flower beds with hydrangeas and other flowers alternate with individual raised plots, pine and other trees, shrubs and a wooden semi-circular benched patio. Rain barrels recycle rain water. The entrance way with a simple wooden trellis and vines is immediately inviting.
Dias y Flores Garden on 13th Street between Avenues A and B. Dias y Flores is one of the oldest and nicest communal gardens on a narrow lot planted with trees, shrubs and flowers. The name Dias y Flores (Days and Flowers) is taken from a hauntingly beautiful song about hope and growing by Silvio Rodriguez. Glass bottle bottoms are inserted into geometric patterns to embellish its brick paths by Artist Bob Lasher. Then there are wall mosaics. It has individual vegetable plots, herbs, and communal areas.
This is how many of the gardens in the East Village came about: On this site was an abandoned building in the early 1970’s, it slowly fell prey to disrepair and drug trade. The City took it over and tore it down in 1976 leaving a rubble-strewn lot.
In 1978, the 13th Street Block Association began the task of converting it into a community lot, with a garden and a playground, by clearing out the rubble, and trash–from broken hypodermic needles to refrigerators and car parts.
Along with the help of Greenthumb, most of the trees and shrubs were planted by 1981. These include: Kousa Dogwood, Ornamental Cherry, Callary Pear, Yew, Apple, vibernum, Fragrant Sumac, Spirea, Juniper, and many rose bushes. A Citizens Committee grant in 2002 help create a fish pond and a solar-powered fountain. A rain-water collection system installed with help from the Council on the Environment of NYC.
In 1998, with the support of Trust for Public Land, a patio was built for community events and a summer workshop series. Horticulture, yoga, Tai Chi, drawing, herbology, and many other art, science, and craft classes are offered. Other annual events include a Spring Sidewalk Swap and Plant Sale, Poetry Jam, end-of-season Live Music Dance Party, Haunted Halloween, a Winter Solstice sing-along and bonfire, and many other informal gatherings and events. The garden has a neighborhood composting program.
Relaxation Garden (Yu Suen Dragon Garden) at the corner of 13th street and Avenue B. The Relaxation Garden is so full of small and large decorative objects that it’s hard to find any green and is primarily for the community to use for play and relaxation.
Pa Plaza Cultural: El Sol Brillante Sr., Joseph C Saur Park and The Children’s Garden on 12th Street between Avenues A and B.
El Sol Brillante has a wrought-iron fence of whimsical animals by Julie Dermansky. The garden has fig, peach and kiwi trees, flowers such as oak hydrangeas and roses, vegetables, herbs, a solar powered pump, and numerous shady spots to rest in. Bees visit in the daytime and fireflies at night. This garden which is under a Land Trust has been around for over thirty years. It manages to provide a good balance between individual plot beds and communal areas that include comfortable spots to sit, eat, drink and admire the landscape which includes bees in the daytime and fireflies at night. Cobblestones have been cleverly used to create a quiet stepped pathway in the rear of the garden.
The much larger, well-equipped Sauer landscaped city playground is bounded to the east by the Children’s Garden, which has a mural as well as play area for children, and on the west by El Sol Brillante, a large garden. This is the best playground for neighborhood children and its proximity to a variety of gardens encourages exploration. This is one of the greenest corners in Manhattan.
Pa Plaza Cultural is composed of multiple city plots that were combined together after adjacent buildings burnt or fell down. The very density of gardens in this area is a strong indication of just how badly this part of the neighborhood was affected when it was burning down. The longevity of the garden is attested to by the size of its trees, including one which is taller than the neighboring seven-story tenement.
Earth People Community Garden on E 8th Street between Avenues B and C. The Earth People Garden sports elegant brick pathways and shaded glades, it also has a rather idiosyncratic display of rubber toys, e.g., crocodiles at the entranceway.
Vamos Sambrar Garden and 200 Avenue B Association Garden on Avenue B between 12and 13 Streets. Are two Latino mini gardens subdividing a tiny plot.
Campos Garden on 12th Street between Avenues C and D. The Campos Garden in the last few years has worked hard to change into a volunteer based working garden. Located in an area in which many residents live in city projects, this lovely welcoming sun-filled garden fills many needs for the local population and grows a lively mix of vegetables (including corn), herbs and flowers and has expanded to what is now twelve raised plot beds. Like most of the gardens, Campos welcomes both volunteers and visitors.
Toyota East Children’s Learning Garden on 11th Street between avenues B and C. The Toyota Children’s Learning Garden was rescued in 1999, this one by the New York Restoration Project (NYRP was founded by Bette Midler) with the land being safeguarded in perpetuity through its New York Garden Trust. NYRP states on their website “Like other greening organizations, NYRP understands the important social, environmental, and even economic roles that community gardens play in New York City…Our goal is to help neighborhood residents develop these shared patches of green into beloved institutions that bring beauty, joy, health, and revitalization to struggling communities across the city.”
In 2007, Toyota provided funding for this designer garden by landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Winding marble pathways, shaded arbors, benches, bamboo groves, make it an inviting yet chic place. NYRP will be running science and other programs to serve the over 22,000 children in the immediate area. Children will be learning garden maintenance techniques, such as composting.
The front of the space features an upland habitat garden. A reclaimed, white-marble walkway runs beneath a lush kiwi vine supported by a steel arbor made by Brooklyn artisans. The back of the space houses a wetland habitat fed by rainwater harvested from the roof of an adjacent building. Benches of black locust provide seating throughout the garden. At the front of the garden is a lot-wide tree pit on the sidewalk that creates a bioswale (Bioswales are landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. They consist of a swaled drainage course with gently sloped sides filled with vegetation, compost and/or riprap.) to divert stormwater from overflowing into the sewer system.
11 BC Garden The 11BC Garden has lovely, circling brick pathways and plantings. Situated between two tall tenements. For some years it has had nesting falcons take advantage of its location (the Lower East Side does not lack for pigeons and even larger hawks have been spotted in the neighborhood).
Lower East Side Ecology Center E 7th Street between Avenues B and C