On the northern side of Sara D. Roosevelt Park sits a large brick structure. Once a youth center, the Stanton Building was shut down during a time of high crime in the Lower East Side and is now used only for storage by the Parks Department. Since the late ’90s, there’s been talk of returning it to community use, but that has yet to happen. So, Wednesday afternoon, a group of local activists gathered outside of the building in what was the first of three events intended to stimulate collective planning about its future.
While he was showing me around the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space yesterday, Bill Di Paola, founder of the environmental non-profit Time’s Up and this place as well, told me all about Adam Purple– the radical environmental activist was known for his colorful personality, a lifelong dedication to direct action, and passionate advocacy for community gardens on the Lower East Side.
From Cyndi Lauper drag cabaret shows to garden romps, here’s this week’s local (and affordable) theater and performance.
Cabaret artist Salty Brine continues his residency at The Red Room on East 4th Street with HE’S SO UNUSUAL, a dazzling evening of song and scene that places Cyndi Lauper’s debut album She’s So Unusual into a world of Prohibition and perfectly-coiffed pansies. No stranger to taking on entire albums in one evening, Brine’s past “Spectacular Living Record Collection Cabaret” shows have included Joni Mitchell’s Blue and the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing. There will be surprises, and there will definitely be impressive costumes.
Turns out the Communal Spaces theatrical festival isn’t the only cultural happening adding some color to local community gardens next weekend. The annual “harvest festival,” hosted by Loisaida United Neighborhood Gardens (LUNGS), returns next Saturday and Sunday, bringing a variety of live music (from Afro-Cuban to jazz to “multiculti dream pop”) to the gardens of the East Village.
It’s no secret the East Village has gone through immense changes over the last few decades, but some institutions from the pre-$20 cocktail days have stuck around. The Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, a DIY project that occupies the storefront of C-Squat, is dedicated to preserving the history of that squat and others. And MoRUS’s third-annual film fest, I Heart NRCHY: Subversion & the City continues the narrative of political and social activism and anarcho-community organizing.
Last Tuesday night, the Bed-Stuy Community Garden was a bit livelier than usual. Passersby craned their necks to see what was popping underneath the racket of steel drums. But George, the omnipresent senior presiding over the spot was holding court per usual.
“Lock your bike!” he croaked at me. But his grumpy-old-man abruptness subsided into a smile when I approached him. “Pose for a photo,” he instructed me and another woman I’d never seen before. Without hesitation she gripped my shoulder and smiled big into George’s iPhone. “That’s it!” George howled with laughter.
All week, we’re bringing you a series of deep dives into the surprising histories of storied addresses. Back to our usual after the New Year.
A walk past the place where the Bowery meets East Houston gives not the slightest hint that until 40 years ago, this lush, fresh air respite called the Liz Christy Community Garden sheltered everyone from immigrants to swindlers, eventually deteriorating by the middle of the 20th century into an abandoned, garbage-strewn lot. In 1973, a group of local college students hauled away the trash, lay dirt and planted seeds. Later, the plot took the name of the art student who spearheaded the project.
Could your next kale salad come from what’s currently a trash-strewn, rat-infested lot in Williamsburg?
The Gardeners of Hooper Street Park believe so. The group of neighbors want to turn a .05-acre lot on the corner of Hooper Street and South Fifth Street into a small park, with some vegetable and flowerbeds. “We want it to be both a garden and gathering place in the community,” said Robert Atterbury, who started organizing residents last year.
The park will only be temporary; the city’s Housing and Preservation Department, which owns the lot, plans to use it for affordable housing, though it’s not clear when it will begin developing it. But Atterbury and others think it can still serve as the sort of open, public space that’s rare in this part of Bushwick.
Community Board 1 supported the park’s creation during its March meeting, and GreenThumb, the Parks Department’s community gardening program, is currently considering the group’s application.
In the meantime, Atterbury’s group is looking for more volunteers, planning the park’s design, and fundraising to purchases benches, tables, a tool shed and composting bins. They’re working with El Puente’s Green Light District and Nuestros Niños Child Development, a daycare near the site.
Two challenges the gardeners face is leveling the ground, which is not even with the street and could be a safety concern, and getting rid of a rat infestation.
“Everyone dumps their stuff in the lot,” says Tiffany Frances, another involved resident. “I’ve seen strollers in there. It’s ridiculous – the lot is fenced, so they would have to make an effort to throw their stuff away.”
Why expose yourself to the splendors of local art and nature separately when you can do both at the same time? On September 28 and 29, Loisaida United Neighborhood Gardens (LUNGS) is hosting its second annual Harvest Arts Festival.