LUNGS Unites Community Gardeners Against Development

Screen shot 2011-09-26 at 3.59.19 PMDominique Zonyee Scott Rosa Goldstein, Charles Krezell, and De Colores treasurer Elizabeth Ruf relaxing in the garden after the first meeting of LUNGS.

Saturday afternoon at the De Colores Community Yard, members of seven community gardens gathered for the first meeting of Loisada United Neighborhood Gardens (LUNGS), a support group founded by De Colores garden-keeper Charles Krezell. “I want LUNGS to unify all of our gardens, and make the Lower East Side greener,” said Mr. Krezell.

Forty East Village gardens were invited to the introductory meeting; in attendeance were a total of 12 representatives from El Jardin del Paraiso, Green Oasis, 6th & B, Miracle Garden, Jardin Los Amigos, 6BC Botanical Garden, and De Colores.

Diana Utech, 55, of El Jardin del Paraiso, considered LUNGS “a great idea,” adding that “we can share ideas to keep gardens alive, spread awareness about the positivity of gardens in the community.”

The threat of development was a common theme at the meeting. Maryanne Byington, of Green Oasis, said she hoped the gardeners would “work together to protect our gardens from the city.”

“There are so many gardens where they want to build big buildings. They want to take our plots,” said Efrain Maldonado of Los Amigos Garden. “There may not be a future for large gardens. We have to stick together.”

Screen shot 2011-09-26 at 4.03.52 PMDominique Zonyee Scott Efrain Maldonado of Los Amigos Garden

“People offer to purchase our plots all the time, but together, we won’t let it happen,” said Mr. Krezell.

The gardens, of course, play a vital role in the neighborhood. Green Oasis hosts intimate weddings; Los Amigos serves as a weekend bingo spot; 6BC has a second floor were people can relax, read, and take in the view. De Colores, one of the East Village’s few yard-style gardens, has a stage with a removable tent for concerts and events, and a lawn for sun bathing, yoga classes, and dancing.

“It is important for people to know that in the gardens we are all one,” said Mr. Krezell. “we all share the same blood, through the same mosquitoes.”

Aside from being a “place for children to run freely without parents worrying,” Mr. Krezell said that community gardens are a source of fresh produce, as evidenced by the tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, and green beans that grow in his garden.

“Ultimately we want people to use the gardens to compost and to grow and eat more fresh produce,” said Mr. Krezell. “We need to change the way people look at New York City. Everything is not fast food.”

Later this month at the Green Oasis Garden, LUNGS will host its first pot luck, featuring garden produce, after which it hopes to lure still more gardeners to its monthly meetings.