Garden Preservation
Mendez Mural Garden

CONTACT: Lesley Heathcote

LOCATION: 509-15 East 11th Street


December 31, 1997

We're sad to report that the Mendez Mural Garden was bulldozed today.

October 1, 1997

EMERGENCY BULLETIN Police surrounded 10BC Garden on the Lower East Side TODAY Wednesday, October 1st, claiming an order to vacate community garden had been issued.

Police subsequently backed off after garden supporters mobilized to defend garden early this morning, saying they did not have a copy of vacate order in hand.

Gardeners are holding emergency round the clock 24 hour vigil to defend gardens at the 10th BC Garden (10th St. Bet. Aves B & C) and at The Mendez Mural Garden, (also imminently threatened), (on 11th St. bet. Aves. A & B) !

Gardeners filed law suit on September 15th against the City, which is now pending with Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Atlas. Judge Atlas has requested that no action be taken on the gardens until Monday, October 5th, when he will decide whether or not to issue a stay of demolition.

The New York City Coalition For The Preservation of Gardens representing hundreds of community gardens throughout the City, has filed suit against the City, the New York Housing Partnership, and developers in State Supreme Court in Manhattan to prevent the October 1st demolition of 4 community gardens on the Lower East Side. Gardens in Harlem also are threatened possibly as early as today October 1st. Some of the gardens have been operating for more then a decade, but their licenses have been revoked by the City in anticipation of housing construction on the garden sites.

In the case, New York City Coalition V. Guiliani, the Coalition of garden groups contends that their members have spent years converting rubble-strewn, rat infested lots in their neighborhoods, that were the sites of drug traffic, into beautiful green space -- centers of community activity, play areas, hosts for educational programs, and recreational space -- in neighborhoods that suffer from an extreme shortage of such amenities. The gardens have been a focal point for community residents of many cultures and walks of life, to rebuild their neighborhoods. Demolition of these gardens now would destroy both the gardens and these community-building efforts. They believe that with careful urban planning the city can easily have both community gardens and new housing, given the huge amount of vacant lots in the City's inventory. This is not an issue of gardens versus housing, this is an issue of poor planning.

Contact Persons:
New York City Coalition For The Preservation of Gardens
(Felicia Young, tel. no. (212) 777-7969; (Haja Worley, Tel. no. (212) 662-2878). Councel is The Legal Aid Society, Community Law Offices, David Weschler, Tel. no. (212) 426-3000; and Leslie Lowe, Esq., Tel. no. (212) 866-4120.

Mendez Mural Garden is slated to be bulldozed for 51 units of housing to be build by New York City partnership. This garden was targeted under the HPD cross-subsidy plan. Now the gardeners have received a notice from the developer that "they are sorry for the inconvenience this may cause the group"

In 1991, neighborhood artists Chico and Ken Hiratsuka began reclaiming the lot located on East 11th Street. In addition to the vegetables, flowers, herbs, shrubs and trees that are planted in the garden, there are murals painted on the sides of buildi ngs bordering the garden, one painted by Chico Hiratsuka himself. Between 1991 and 1996 the interest in the garden skyrocketed from these two artists to over forty gardeners.

The garden has been transformed into a vital and central part of the neighborhood. Flowers and vegetables flourish, people have barbecues and picnics, neighborhood children play there on a regular basis and murals cover the walls surrounding the garden. The garden is used by a wide variety of people of different ages and backgrounds. Often parents and grandparents bring their children into the garden and work together on their garden plot. The interests of people using this garden range from flower s and plants to art to recreation.

Approximately 3,000 people visit the garden which was created out of a vacant lot each year. The garden has served to bring many diverse people together to work toward a common goal. It provides a place for neighborhood socializing, beautifies the com munity, in addition to aiding in the decrease of drug activity in the neighborhood since the lot was formerly a spot for selling and use of drugs.

The Mendez Mural Garden has served as a place that is green where people can be in contact with nature, smell the flowers and see the sky. Many people who would normally have little contact with each other have formed meaningful friendships through t his garden. In addition, the garden has provided the neighborhood with a sense of hope that a place of beauty could be created and maintained in a spot which was plagued by many problems including drugs, rats and garbage. Unfortunately, the lot on which the garden is located has recently been slated for a condominium development. The members of the neighborhood, however, are working to provide more services that will benefit the community in order to gain support for the garden. The gardeners need people to write letters in support of saving their garden. (see letter writing campaign)

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