Stanton ‘Butterfly Garden’ demo’ed by developer

CMG – courtesy of Aresh Javadi copy
Supporters of the Childern’s Magical Garden. (Courtesy Aresh Javadi)

BY ROSE ADAMS | Lower East Side residents recently walked into the Children’s Magical Garden on Stanton St. to find their trees uprooted and their bushes trampled. The portion of the space that had been destroyed was known as the Butterfly Garden, and had been a tranquil refuge from the city’s bustle since the garden’s founding in 1985.

“One bush attracted a lot of butterflies. I used to prune it,” one of the local gardeners said.

Supporters of the Childern’s Magical Garden. (Courtesy Aresh Javadi)

The damage is the latest in an ongoing legal battle between the garden and local developer Serge Hoyda and David Marom over one of the garden’s three lots. While two of the garden’s lots are owned by the city’s Parks Department, the third, known as “Lot 19,” was purchased by Hoyda in 2003. In 2013, Hoyda erected a fence around his property —effectively cutting the garden in half — and demolished much of the garden’s greenery. Hoyda then sold the lot to Marom, who now plans to build a luxury apartment building on the site of the Butterfly Garden.

But local green thumbs called foul. In 2014, the gardeners sued both developers, claiming the garden had gained ownership of the property under “adverse possession” since it had occupied the lot for more than 10 years. Children’s Magical Garden also seeks financial compensation for damages.

“Whoever did this doesn’t understand the value of plants and trees and community,” said Kate-Temple West, the president of CMG. “There’s not a lot of opportunity for children on the Lower East Side to harvest a nectarine, and over the years, probably over 100 children have had that opportunity.”

CMG members suspect that the latest attack occurred sometime over the weekend of April 6, and blame Marom’s construction workers for the damage. In addition to uprooting trees, intruders left more than a dozen traffic barriers in the lot, which some gardeners fear will attract rats.

Marom and his company, The Horizon Group, did not respond for comment.

Supporters of CMG gathered in the garden on Tues., April 9, to lament the destruction. Children swung on swings hung from trees as their parents surveyed the damage in Lot 19, sharing memories of the trees that once stood there.

“I was born and raised in LES, in a building across the street,” said Carmen Almonte, another longtime supporter. “The garden has been my extended family. I’ve met so many people in the neighborhood.”

City Councilmember Margaret Chin also showed her support.

“We know this is the latest in a series of intimidation tactics,” Marian Guerra, a Chin representative, told the group of volunteers. “But we will continue to work with the garden and volunteers to restore [Lot 19].”

As children and parents sipped coffee in the garden before heading off to school, hope for the future mixed with a measure of resignation.

Tiffany de Bruyn, whose children frequent the garden, enjoys that CMG hosts a variety of programs for children in organic gardening, composting, herbal medicine making music and art.

“This garden is here for the kids,” she said.