Monday, March 11, 2013

Changing Seasons and Garden Planting/Planning

Sign outside of Siempre Verde, the newest community garden in the Lower East Side.
Friday it was going to snow, before a weekend of sunshine and garden work days.  The week been a heady one, full of reflection on the last days of the living theater and the ways we continue to help the city feel like a work of art. 
Atlantic Ave Brooklyn.
The best way I know is to make the city open,  safe,  and free for art and play.   To this end, years of organizing paid off when we heard the State Assembly of New York passed a bill supporting a two year moratorium on fracking, while they study the health effects. Occupy the pipeline has been working night and day on this.  And so had thousands of organizers.  So it was a time to celebrate what a little direct action can do to help put our issues on the table.  But there is so much more to do.

It snowed through the night on Thursday. 

With all the concerns about the changing environment, it was a relief to actually see some seasonal snow, to taste the snow flakes with some of my heroes on International Women's Day. 

Waking up to a snowy morning, we romped along  Prospect Park, enjoying a a final taste of winter (hopefully). 

The girls walked along the wall on Prospect Park West.

Later that day, we  enjoyed an afternoon out to the movies.   And I made it through all of Wizard of Oz for the first time.

Taking in a 3 D double feature picture show.

Saturday, the gals and I joined Bill Times Up! at La Plaza Cultural on 9th and C for a Times Up! / MoRUS garden clean up day.   

Piles of lumber from trees lost to Sandy now fill this garden, like many in the city.  So Bill made them into a play sculpture. 

Meanwhile we dug through the mulch, spreading it throughout the garden.  Kids looked for the turtles, who may not have made it through the winter.

And some napped.

We got some ice cream from Rays, reveling in a quiet spring day with everyone in the park.

Did some window shopping.

And dropped by Catherine's Talese's lovely art opening at the Village Zendo at 588 Broadway.

Sunday, we joined Wendy for her Adopting to Change Ride.   Wendy's rides are always lovely, with stories about ways regular folks turn our public spaces, gardens, lots, schools, and the buildings where we work into breathing ecological experiments in sustainability.   She wrote:

Ride starts at Tompkins Park Gaia Tree (center circle) at 11:30am

Sandy’s storm waters surged into Manhattan, heralding a new 21st century reality. On this 90 minute ride, we’ll explore both the aftermath and solutions generated in the East Village that mitigate or adapt to the realities of climate change. has the map! 

Along the way, discuss practical responses that increase livability as well as long term planning options for a more resilient NYC with Green Map System,EcoOptimist, and others. Co-sponsored by Time's Up!

At 1pm the ride concludes nearby, where we'll be joining the Siempre Verde Garden clean up (optional but dress appropriately, bring snack & water - 

Wendy later noted:

The ride did start at 1130 - not sure what happened with the time on FB, and it was fun and informative - my favorite stop was El Sol Brilliante Garden where Susan gave us an in-depth intro to their fermented food waste compost. If you want to know more about EM there's an event on Friday at MORUS. - Pitching in afterwards at Siempre Verde garden was awesome, too. Thank you [to] the people who made this a great place to be on a lovely day!

I was particularly amazed with the murals and gardens on 11th and the lessons we learned about bokashi style composting, which allow us to compost many kinds of food waste  and fight off rats at the same time. 

 Susan Greenfield's impromptu tutorial was amazing.  El Sol Brilliante garden is another one of those wonderful gardens born of the vacant lots and the fiscal crisis of the 1970's. 
Today is showing us what sustainable urban space can look and feel like.  But the limitations are many.  Today, the streets are still places where the homeless sleep and flood waters continue to rise. 

The flood line marks how high Sandy rose on Ave C. 

Finishing the tour we rode through the city, past the graffiti, stopping at Children's Magical Garden.

More than a ride, adopting to change, offered us a chance to take part in gardening activities, concluding at the Siempre Verde community garden on 181 Stanton Street, where those of us in Times Up! were working on transforming another former vacant lot into a garden.  As the Times Up calendar explained:

Garden Clean-Up Day at Siempre Verde
Sunday, March 10, 1pm, 181 Stanton Street.
Come help the newest community garden in town unload its
2nd shipment of compost. We'll be shoveling, planting and
prepping for Spring.
Top photo by Josh Bisker.
Bottom by  MoS Collective

Over the previous weeks, we'd brought bags of donated dirt from queens into the garden.   Today, we would be moving them, opening them and laying the dirt out into the garden.  The day began with digging out piles of bricks from the rubble.  The goal was to turn this mess into a space where a garden can grow.  We put together a garden conveyor belt of bodies to move the thousands of pounds of dirt throughout the garden itself.  It felt so good to actually be part of the process of creating a garden out of nothing.  That would be the theme of the day. 

Part of what makes the space lovely is how open everyone is, who is involved.  One of the risks of these spaces is they become closed, mini clubs, exclusive to those in the know.  This is a space open to everyone.  

Finishing the clean up, a couple walked out the syogogue, across the street.

Clean-up ben  Ilyse Kazar

Everyone kvelled, and a smaller crew of us rode out to Williamsburg to the Times Up! space.

There we scouted out garden spaces from vacant lots identified on the 596 acres watched lot list.

We rode throughout Williamsberg, down Bedford to Division, up Berry, and down to the waterfront, searching for vacant lots to create a new garden, searching for the right sweet spot on which to support the ever mutable, ever changing work of art which is the city of New York and its pulsing communities, full of art, color, murals, storms, people, and big plans. 

We climbed through fences, locking regular people from the waterfront.

Fences are all about capitalism.  Jumping through and finding secret spots is part of the joy of resisting the privatization of public space. 

photo by Lopi LaRoe

Talked about what we hoped to create.

Finishing the meeting, I rode down Kent, past the Naval Yard's ruins, looking at the way the city has changed on my way back home.


  1. Another beautiful post Ben! Your life is FULL. Thanks for fighting the good fight, always. Peace,

    1. Thank you so much Jennifer.
      Looking forward to seeing you this summer.


  2. Incredible blog post Ben, thank you!

  3. THanks you ranlph... thanks for hanging out.