Garden Preservation

Green Oasis
Community Garden

Location: 8th Street (bet. Aves C & D)

Current Status:  

CB3 voted sept. 19th, 1995 in unjust and misrepresentational vote, to release this garden for proposed development plans for middle and market rate housing part of a cross-subsidy plan. Housing Preservation and Development has not decided which sites they will actually develop but is wavering between CB recommendation and community letters in support of the gardens preservation. It is important for the community and others to participate in our letter writing campaign.

The Green Oasis Community Garden, established in 1981, was created from five depressed abandoned lots located on East 8th St between Avenues C & D. The founders, Norman Vallee and Reinaldo Arana, hoped to create an alternative to the streets for the neighborhood youth. With the aid of friends and children from the community, the lots were cleared of rubble, dumped cars, and all forms of garbage to prepare for building a garden. What this process encouraged was; positive community interaction, fulfilling a need. This community support helped create what has become one of the most dynamic and important community gardens on the Lower East Side-providing the community with not only an impressive garden landscaped with foliage and trees bearing fruit, but a theatre, a playground, a grape arbor, a barbecue pit, a picnic area with a pond housing goldfish and a turtle, bird houses, vegetable plots, slate and marble pathways for wheelchair accessibility, a gazebo, and beehives providing honey.

Maintained by community volunteers, innovative in their efforts to maintain this green open space, this garden provides a setting for public events and theater productions; gardening and educational programming; vitalizing both cultural interactions and exchange year round. Although the gardenıs interest is to establish a permanent garden & theater for children; it also involves adults, artistic and cultural organizations and special interest groups in its activities. The garden seeks to become a permanent institution serving the community.

Who uses the Garden?
At the start, we realized, that the enthusiasm the neighborhood youth had for digging and planting was not meeting their need to channel all their creative impulses. As a result, the Art & Theatre Workshops began.. With donated supplies, and little assistance, co-founder Reinaldo Arana, began working with the children making masks. This inspired a play to be written and a stage to be built, resulting in the Gardens first staged theater production ³The Enchanted Garden² in 1987. (The staging of this production is now an annual event). With the success of this first production, the Art & Theater Workshops began working with local schools, making Green Oasis a valuable educational and cultural resource. As part of this community outreach effort, Green Oasis began to co-ordinate activities with numerous local schools and city programs, including The Manhattan Alternative to Incarceration Program, City Volunteer Corps, New York Cares, Summer Youth of the Board of Education, United Cerebral Palsy, as well as community senior centers and numerous special interest groups. Our resources embraced the involvement of everyone-including people of every age, race, ability and ethnic/cultural roots, choosing to use these diversities to enrich our creative and cultural projects. To make the garden accessible to wheelchairs, the elderly and the physically challenged, garden members have installed a network of marble and slate pathways and have built raised plots so that people with special needs can easily garden.

Goals and Objectives
The members of the Board of Directors, are highly committed and optimistic about the future development of the gardenıs programs. A positive attitude and understanding respond to the need for services and programs for the community in the near future. Aggressive fundraising campaigns to expand our already existing programs and develop new activities during the upcoming seasons are essential. Maintaining contact with different organizations and funding resources, local donations and in kind contributions, are what make many of our projects possible. these directed efforts are primarily concerned with securing funds for garden maintenance; development of art, cultural education and theater programs; expansion of greening and gardening projects; field trips; as well as staff training.

Our Junior Board of Directors, integrating children and young adults, are involved in the running and decision making of the garden, this helps them to develop organizational and managerial skills, as well as self esteem. They are our hope for the future.

We encourage all to support and partake in the enrichment and preservation of a vital community resource, a garden of value to the entire community.

The ethnically rich cultural communities (a part of the social economic structure of the working class and lower income minorities) have always been a nurturing spirit for the many artists who have chosen to live in these often underdeveloped areas. This created an interesting pattern, allowing many artists a long standing history with living and working inside of these communities. Willingly working together (while struggling to maintain their mutual interest with cultural events important to their backgrounds) and aspiring to strengthen their need for Œcommunityı, created a resurgence for community responsibility.

The development of a project like the Green Oasis Community Garden (in the midst of what seemed to be a ruined urban site), seemed inevitable. Expectantly, it took the creative energies of the many gifted artists, living in that community, to envision the possibilities of creating a ŒGreen Oasisı in the midst of what existed as abandoned rubble. This new found need for a revived sense of Œcommunityı, and a shared interest in the potential creativity and cultural development of the Green Oasis Community Garden generated encouragement, enthusiastically shared by many of the communities long-standing residents, who became active participants in many of the gardenıs activities. Both artists/residents--at cause to having to spend a great deal of time living and often working within the immediate neighborhood, made this project seem not only meaningful but necessary.

The result of this effort today, seem astounding, and by no means have gone unnoticed. The Gardens development over the years have become recognized by numerous community organizations city wide and enriched the community in which it now thrives by working to include the involvement of everyone--indiscriminate of age, race, ability or ethnic/cultural roots, choosing to use these diversities to enrich its creative and cultural projects...thus making it of value to everyone in the immediate community and the surrounding area.

The Vision:
First, to create something beautiful that would change the way the community felt about the neighborhood. Second, to encourage members of the community to become involved, allowing for an opportunity for all to share in a common positive experience and community responsibility. And third, to provide a safe space for the youth, an alternative to the streets.

The result of this effort today, is astounding and by no means have gone unnoticed. The Gardenıs development over the years has become recognized by numerous community organizations city wide and enriched the community in which it now thrives by working to include the involvement of everyone.

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