In the 1970s, when an economic crisis saw the city—especially less affluent neighborhoods like the East Village—falling apart, something beautiful began popping up amidst the vacant lots and demolition sites. It was in this time that the seeds were planted, literally, for a community garden movement that today boasts 39 plots of varying sizes throughout the eclectic neighborhood.
During those trying times, landlords were abandoning buildings and properties, leaving the empty spaces ripe for crime and dereliction. Rubbish and drugs littered the area. In an effort to brighten their turf, volunteer residents and groups like Green Thumb, Green Guerillas and, later, the East Village Parks Conservancy created a culture of urban gardening that has become a hallmark of Lower Manhattan.
Today’s gardens flourish with art, education and performance, as well as beautiful trees, plants and flowers. Days and even weeks can be spent visiting the different East Village gardens, getting a feel for their varying personalities and aesthetics.
The area considered to be home to this green network is bounded by 14th Street to the north, Houston Street to the south, Bowery/Third Avenue to the west and Avenue D to the east. Within these boundaries, you can visit the famous Liz Christy Bowery Houston Community Garden, complete with a fish and turtle pond and over 2,000 varieties of plants, shrubs and bulbs. A Caribbean theme, with brightly painted picket fences and benches, is found at Brisas Del Caribe on East Third Street between avenues A and B. The popular 6B garden on Avenue B between Fifth and Sixth streets offers a lovely outdoor amphitheater and a full summertime calendar of events for youth and adults alike.
For a complete list of gardens, visit www.communitygardensoftheeastvillage.com.
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