CB3 Overwhelmingly Approves Establishment of LES Community Gardens District

Posted on: January 20th, 2015 at 9:19 am by
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Here ye, hear ye. It’s time for neighborhood gardens to receive their due and proper.

Guerilla gardening and its punk DIY aesthetic are deeply rooted in the Lower East Side, thanks to the pioneering efforts Liz Christy. Often considered the mother of the movement, her eponymous garden at Bowery and East Houston was the first such community oasis in the neighborhood. And it’s an example that continues to inspire and empower.

The Lower East Side, and the East Village in particular, is already deemed a de facto garden district. At its peak, there were a total of 57 gardens; the stock has since been reduced – thanks to constant development – to 48. Much of the problem is attributed to the fact that the city illustrates these pocket parks as “vacant lots” on its maps. Of course, this only benefits the drooling developers hoping to make a buck.

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Inside the Liz Christy Garden

Now a grassroots collection of locals activists is raring to make the designation permanent; GreenThumbers are sick of the anxiety of semi-permanent green space that can technically disappear at any moment. They seek recognition for the decades of cleanup and beautification (e.g. raking needles and bricks). Ultimately, the goal is to create a defined Lower East Side/East Village community gardens district to help protect our greatest neighborhood assets.

By instituting the designation, organizers are pushing the city to (1) acknowledge the historical importance of the neighborhood as the birthplace of this world-renowned movement and (2) map the gardens as Park land to award protection from poaching under state law and to enact a system similar to the Fourth Arts Block.

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Hua Mei Bird Garden on Delancey St.

The nascent movement received a huge boon last week when Community Board 3 fully backed the measure. Being a panel comprised of gardeners, the Parks subcommittee wasted no time in a unanimous approval. Moreover, Councilwoman Rosie Mendez is totally behind the effort and will reportedly work on legislation to make it happen. Other supporters of the cause include State Senator Brad Hoylman, Cooper Square Committee, and Fourth Arts Block.

Meanwhile, there is also a petition circulating online to further rally the troops. There are currently close to 600 signatures of support.

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