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Community Gardens Need Just One Thing: Gardeners

Gardens group sculpture
At the Kenkeleba Garden, facing East 3rd Street just east of Avenue B, curator Corinne Jennings tells our group about the outsider artists who show their work in the community garden, as well as the Wilmer Jennings Gallery.

This past Saturday morning, after a cooling rain shower, a gaggle of curious people went traipsing around a handful of community gardens in the East Village. We visited eight gardens, plus the Wilmer Jennings Gallery, in just two hours, hearing from garden members at each one. Members are the people who actually do the work of keeping the gardens maintained and open. Whenever a member is present, the garden is required to be open to the public.

If you wish your nearby community garden were open more, become a member! Many gardens can use more involvement, especially from younger people. It’s largely our elders who are keeping these treasured spots blooming.

Gardens yellow iris
Mid-May is the moment for irises in the East Village — glowing in yellow at Orchard Alley, and rising in a rainbow of shades elsewhere.

This GVSHP tour was led by Ayo Harrington, an East 4th Street resident, founder of Orchard Alley garden on her block, and coordinator of the Coalition to Establish a Community Gardens District. The latter effort gained the backing of Community Board 3 in January (to read the resolution, see p. 12 here.). We at GVSHP are also proud supporters of this preservation initiative.

This tour was one of the rich array of events and festivals offered as part of Lower East Side History Month. Check out this calendar to plan your schedule of mostly free performances, talks, tours and fairs through the end of May.

Gardens Ayo and Natty
Ayo Harrington, left center, led our tour. Next to her is Natty Calderon, a garden member, whose husband Peter once lived in a building on the very lot where the garden is now.

Although New Yorkers are still shuddering from the memory of this past brutal winter, one gardener said all that snowpack was a boon to the greenery. The relative lack of rain this spring has not been a problem because the ground was so well watered by the snow.

Gardens Tree Painting
A mural in All Peoples Garden, on East 3rd Street, east of Avenue C.

Today there are 46 community gardens on the Lower East Side, each one unique. Gilbert’s Garden and Green Oasis has a koi pond; Orchard Alley claims the biggest tool shed; All Peoples Garden has a peaceful gazebo; the 6th Street and Avenue B Community Garden has a sculpture of sorts made from the roots of a tree that fell during Hurricane Sandy in fall of 2012. But that’s just the tip of the green-burg. You have to go and find the rope swings, amphitheaters, birdhouses, artwork, trees, and tons of flowers, for yourself.  Here’s a map to help.

Gardens Maryanne
Gilbert’s Garden and Green Oasis recently received this Little Free Library. Garden member Maryanne Byington spoke to the group. Photos by Karen Loew


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