Tuesday, September 28, 2021

"Deeper and Deeper into the world..." On Sustainable Urbanism and the Gardens, The Plaza of the Wind, #SaveElizabethStreetGarden.


"One day you finally knew what you had to do... as you strove deeper and deeper into the world," wrote Mary Oliver. 

All morning, we walked about the Morgan Library, taking in the Shahzia Sikander scrolls and extraordinary-realities, Mom perusing the old books, with dreams of Versailles. 

It had been a full week of catching up, a meeting inside of Barbes as it rained, greeting Josh and Greg and Erik and Emily, talking with Mark on the stoop, chatting away with my friends.  Friday, Caroline and I jumped on the bikes for a a trip to Valentino Pier on Friday, looking at the water, thinking about the Brooklyn Tides. 

In between it all, getting ready for our Saturday conversation on Sustainable Urbanism with LA Kaufman at Grace Gallery on 192 Avenue C.

The Rise and Resist crew were on their way from their picnic. 

Anne Christine was back in town after eluding Ida in New Orleans, 

Leslie Cagan, iconic anti-war organizer, sat talking about her memories, worlds of my New York converging. 

Dee Dee introduced the space, welcoming everyone, reminding us of the ripples of good ideas growing from this urban laboratory of green gardens and bioswayles and energy bikes, and beneficial succession.

LA Kauffman and I talked about what it all meant, trying to trace this story of activism from identity based movements into post modernism back to dialectics of race and class, from the Lower East Side Community Gardens to the Occupy Wall Street Sustainability Committee, Occupy the Pipeline, Occupy Sandy, the People's Climate March, and the trip to Paris for COP21, the Bataclan Terrorist attacks of November 2015, unleashing a whirling double helix of crises, states of emergency, and protests.  And so Sustainable Urbanism was born.  The clash is everywhere I thought.  Why all the reoccurring conflicts? It would take years to get the book unstuck. 

LA and I talked about the Community Gardens of the Lower East Side as a case study and a route toward a more livable urbanism. The immediately aroused a backlash. 

"Welcome to the era after communism" said Rudy Giuliani, suggesting that community gardens, and by extension, the commons had to be substituted for affordable housing. 

First he took on the gardens, then he took on democracy, standing outside of Four Seasons Total Landscaping and a porno shop, condemning the election results. 

 The community garden movement represented community controlled green space, as a threat to neoliberal urbanism.

Fight after fight. 

For developers, the libraries felt like a similar socialist threat, to be privatized and gutted. But the Library Lovers prevailed. 

On and on Kaufman and I explored two decades of waves of actions and intersecting crises from the Lower East Side Collective to Reclaim the Streets, to a Global Justice movement, that turned into a Global Peace and Justice Movement, and Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matters and struggles to defend urban libraries as a commons, and on and on, throughout ever shifting, ever slitting understandings of our movements. 

Each of the struggles feel connected in this dance of the dialectic, between the fight for East River Park and Governor's Island and East River Park.  

JK was passing out a flyer for an action on Tuesday.

Yet what keeps you going? 

There is a wealth of power in the soil, said JK.  Its a source of power for me. 

System change, not climate change, we declared before Flood the System in 2014.

Yet, we have not really had system change, noted Kauffman. 

Still, movements ebb and flow, ever evolving along with their targets, culture clashes, dialectic splits, and mergers.  Our contradictions are ever connected within a messy duality, woven together between trauma and change. Our stories offer a bit of a poetic refusal.

"You are bunch of white people!" screamed an onlooker, pointing out that ways gardens beautify and occasionally displace in this concrete jungle.

"I've taken 35 years for someone to call me a white asshole," said Erik afterwards.  "I am not going to give up that privilege."

After the talk, the Rise and Resist crew made their way to see Patti Smith play at the endangered Elizabeth Street Garden. 

And everyone gossiped after the talk, walking down to ABC for beer and chat, a magic day with LA and Megan and Caroline and Mary M and Ken and Babs and Judy and Karl and Jenny and Jessica and on and on into the evening. Karl and I talked about Buy Nothing Day 1999.  And all the other book readings I've been lucky enough to have my friends join me for. 

By Sunday, we ventured out for bagels, and trip back to Judson for the first time in ages. 

Be quick to listen and not speak.

Re imagine ourselves, build something new. 

Looking about, it was hard thinking Doris, whose obit was in the day's times, and Bob Thomason, whose funeral was the day before, and Donna were no longer about. 

Change is all we have.

Down the street, and East on Spring I rode to Elizabeth Street Garden, where the city has been trying to evict the garden. 

"Every tree counts in the fight against climate change," said Normam Siegel, reminding us 70% of New York is paved in concrete.  The earth absorbs water, helping us survive and cope. 

Tim and Mel. were hanging out in the West Village, wondering about why fate has given them what its given them.

And comrades from all over the city were saying goodbye to Stanley in Prospect Park. 

The only constant is change. 

And Caroline met me for a pint and we toasted them all in the hot September afternoon. 

Next Saturday, we will be telling stories at El Jardin Paraiso at 4 PM. 

See you there. 

Erik R. McGregor photo and caption,
Sustainable Urbanism Book Launch Reading and Storytelling with L.A. Kauffman and
2 others
at Grace Exhibition Space.

Photos from Jackie Rudin.

Photos from Jackie Ruden

Photos from Jackie Ruden

Photos from Jackie Ruden

Tim and Mel

Thanks Karl

Art with the family, the best. 

Working hard or hardly working at Valentino Pier. 

A pint inside Barbes, first time in 18 months. 

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