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Carmen Pabon, legendary LES poet / gardener, dies at 95

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At the end of last month, Carmen Pabon, left, joined City Councilmember Rosie Mendez in cutting the ribbon on Pabon’s restored garden, which had been closed for 17 years following an adjacent development project. Photo by Sarah Ferguson

Carmen Pabon, the revered Loisaida poet and gardener, has died. She was 95.

Valerio Orselli, executive director of the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association, confirmed the news on Monday afternoon, saying it came from the longtime director of CHARAS.

“I’ve just been informed by Chino Garcia that Dona Carmen Pabon, longtime activist / gardener and community institution, has passed away,” Orselli said in an e-mail. “May she rest in peace or be reborn in a heavenly garden.

“I am told she died peacefully surrounded by her family in a hospice,” Orselli said.

There will be a wake for Pabon at the Ortiz Funeral Home, 21 First Ave., near E. Second St., this Wed., Nov. 16, from 4 pm. to 9 p.m.

“Everyone who knew, loved and cared for Carmen Pabon is urged to attend,” Orselli said.

Carmen Pabon's renovated, and smaller, garden still sports its original iconic bas-relief Loisaida wall mural.
Carmen Pabon’s renovated, and smaller, garden still sports its original bas-relief Loisaida wall mural.

Just three weeks ago, Pabon had helped cut the ribbon with City Councilmember Rosie Mendez on the newly refurbished Carmen Pabon Del Amanecer community garden, at 119 Avenue C, between Seventh and Eighth Sts.

Pabon created the garden in the late 1970s from a vacant, rubble-strewn lot. She held poetry readings and fed the homeless there for many years, before the space was closed in 2000 due to the construction of the Eastville Gardens apartment complex next door by Donald Capoccia of BFC Partners.

For 17 years, what was left of the open space — the garden used to be larger — languished behind locked gates, but now it has been redesigned and will be used as a public open space once again.

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