Adam Purple, Legendary Guerrilla Gardener, Died Monday While Riding His Bike Across the Williamsburg Bridge

Posted on: September 16th, 2015 at 5:16 am by

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Adam Purple above his Garden of Eden, Photo: Harvey Wang

The Lower East Side (via Brooklyn) lost one of its legends on Monday afternoon. Adam Purple, the notorious gardener who unsuccessfully fought the city to keep the Garden of Eden behind Stanton Street, died at the age of 84. He was riding a bike across the Williamsburg Bridge and subsequently suffered a fatal heart attack. He was found lying beside his bicycle, according to a report by Lincoln Anderson in The Villager.

Here’s more from the dispatch.

Police did not immediately have information on what may have happened to Purple — whose real name was David Wilkie — on the bridge. A department spokesperson said they would only have a record if there had been a crime.

However, Bill DiPaolo, executive director of Time’s Up, said from what he was told, Purple was found in the middle of the bridge. Passersby reportedly performed CPR on him to try to save him. DiPaolo said a man he knows by the name of  Jacques told him that he had been riding by and saw Purple on the bridge and that he did not look like he was alive.

DiPaolo said Purple would ride over the bridge and into the East Village about twice a month to shop for food at Commodities Natural Market, at E. 10th St. and First Ave.

“I think the summer took a toll on him because it was very hot,” Ditino said. “He was living in a little room at Time’s Up. He was thinking about moving in with me.”

On January 8, 1986, the massive Garden of Eden “earthwork” was bulldozed by the city to make way for federal housing. Purple had spearheaded the guerrilla undertaking eleven years earlier while a resident of 184 Forsyth Street, and it spanned five city lots. His inspiration was simple enough – watching neighborhood children play in the garbage and filth of his rubble-strewn backyard.  It was a “hell of a way to raise children,” and Purple decided the land could be of greater benefit to the community as a fully-functional garden.  At its peak, the zen-tastically circular Eden boasted 15,000 square-feet of virgin soil, and yielded fruit, nuts, asparagus, and corn.

Purple’s blood, sweat, and tears are now buried beneath Section 8 housing units that occupy the block.

Adam Purple and The Garden of Eden from Harvey Wang on Vimeo.

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