As evident by the popularity of outdoor spaces like Central Park and the ultra-trendy High Line, New York City has a wide variety of green spaces. However, on summer weekends and in the midst of tourist season, these overpopulated spaces may not offer the ideal respite from the city that many people are craving. Luckily, New York is home to numerous community gardens, especially in the East Village, that are open to the public. Many of these gardens serve as artifacts of New York history and offer secluded space for community gatherings, art events, and relaxation.
Community gardens are particularly significant in New York’s tumultuous history. Paradoxically, they are a source of both conflict and community building. The number of community gardens in New York City is continually in flux, but historically, several hundred existed in the city. The East Village and the Lower East Side contain the largest concentration of community gardens in the United States, containing 39 out of the few hundred in the city. Many of these gardens were founded in the 1970s and 1980s when communities took control of abandoned lots and transformed them into community spaces. However, as time progressed, developers snatched up some of the garden plots and the Parks Department took ownership of many of the remaining gardens, helping to preserve the ones that are left.
Read on for our picks of the most notable community gardens in the East Village and pick a few to check out yourself!
1. 9th Street Community Garden Park
Located at East 9th Street and Avenue C, the 9th Street Community Garden is one of the largest community gardens in New York City. The garden was founded in 1979 and has continued to thrive as a botanic garden with flower and vegetable gardens, a fish pond, peach and cherry trees, a grape arbor, a Japanese garden, and a gazebo. The space also contains a rainwater harvesting system, a composting setup, and community spaces, including a stage and a barbecue area.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of this garden is the giant weeping willow tree that towers over the garden, serving as evidence of an underground stream. Sadly, the willow tree is dead, the result of flooded and contaminated water that overtook the garden during Hurricane Sandy.