Supporters of two Lower East Side Community Gardens thank donors for keeping greenspaces thriving

David Schultz of El Sol Brillante greets guests (Photos by Tequila Minsky)

BY TEQUILA MINSKY | Donors to the Citizens Committee for New York City sipped rosé and mingled with community garden members of two Lower East Side gardens on Sept. 24 at an event thanking supporters of an organization that bolsters grass roots initiatives. 

Citizens Committee for New York City helps New Yorkers — especially those in low-income areas — come together and improve their neighborhood.  It supports volunteer-led neighborhood groups, including block and tenant associations, gardening groups and those without 501 (c) 3 non-profit status working on neighborhood improvement projects and quality of life issues. 

To that end, the Citizens Committee for New York City has supported projects in the two East Village gardens that hosted the thank-you evening. 

Peter H. Kostmayer, CEO of Citizens Committee for New York City, greets attendees

The “Roses and Rosé” event began in one of the early community gardens in the Lower East Side, El Sol Brillante Community Garden. In 1977, residents began transforming this previously rubble-covered lot into a beautiful urban oasis.

A totem pole in El Sol Brillante

Over the years, the Citizen Committee’s four grants to this East 12th Street garden (the first of which was provided in 1994) supported new fencing, enlargement and garden maintenance, expanding its compost system and most recently, the luscious mural along the back wall. 

The artist Jeramy Turner strikes a pose in front of her luscious mural on the back wall of the East 12th Street garden.

Visitors at last week’s event walked under the early autumn sky though the luxuriant garden foliage with members showcasing the beehive, compost operation and mural. This garden is part of a Land Trust and not under Parks Department jurisdiction. 

A beehive at El Sol Brillante

Migrating, the evening continued to Green Oasis Community Garden on East 8th Street.  

The 28-year-old Green Oasis was founded to provide play space for children and to support arts and artists and  offers workshops with neighborhood schools to bring nature to children. 

The garden has received nine grants for projects ranging from ecology workshops to music and crafting series. 

As dusk descended, the garden’s stage, which is often the venue for open garden performances, provided the  Kryiol Vodou Band, Haitian traditional drummers, a podium while the Haitian dance troupe, Kriyol Dance! Collective (KDC) performed in the garden.  Guests and garden members refueled with rose.  

Kriyol Dance!, a 2019 Citizens Committee grant recipient, conducted a series of events highlighting Haitian music, including concerts and workshops on rhythms and lives of Haitian musicians lives. They also held a program discussing the Haitian immigrant experience.

The Kriyol Dance! Collective entered guests at the Green Oasis Community Garden

KDC uses dance, music and spoken word as a tool to create original work focused on preserving Black Diasporic and Haitian culture. 

Magali Regis, an East Village resident and president of New York City Community Garden Coalition’s notes that there are 48 community gardens in the Lower East Side area and that Green Oasis is particularly participatory in providing space for produce distribution for the local CSA, community supported agriculture. 

Jan Werner gives background on Green Oasis Community Garden

This year’s Citizens Committee’s grants also went to skill-building workshops and project-planning assistance supporting inspired communities. The organization is awarding over $2 million in grants and services to over 500 resident-led efforts in all five boroughs.  

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