Community Gardens

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East Village, Features, History

Community Gardeners at the Bowery Houston Community Farm and Garden, 1974 via Liz Christie Community Garden

Awash in gray pavement and grayer steel, New York can be a metropolis of muted hues, but with 39 community gardens blooming between 14th Street and East Houston Street, the East Village is the Emerald City. The neighborhood boasts the highest concentration of community gardens in the country thanks to a proud history of grassroots activism that has helped transform once-abandoned lots into community oases.

By the mid-1970s, as the city fought against a ferocious fiscal crisis, nearly 10,000 acres of land stood vacant throughout the five boroughs. In 1973, Lower East resident Liz Christie, who lived on Mott Street, refused to let the neglected lots in her neighborhood lie fallow. She established the urban garden group Green Guerillas, a rogue band of planters who lobbed “seed bombs” filled with fertilizer, seeds, and water into vacant, inaccessible lots, hoping they would flourish and fill the blighted spaces with greenery.

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