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After Closing Scare, Creative Little Garden Turns Over New Leaf

Steve RoseMelvin Felix Steve Rose in the garden.

On May 26, less than three weeks after the Creative Little Garden was touted as the best community garden in the city by readers of the Daily News, a message appeared on the garden’s Facebook page: “Without new volunteers our garden may close at the end of this summer.”

For the past five years, Steve Rose, a “semi-retired” 62-year-old resident of the block, has opened the garden’s green gates every morning at 11 a.m and watered its azaleas, hydrangeas and ferns. He closes the park at sundown — to prevent vagrants or late-night partiers from entering — and when it’s used for events: 14 weddings were held at the Creative Little Garden last year, and a “Saturday Night Live” skit was filmed there. But earlier this summer, Mr. Rose decided he would no longer be involved with the garden, citing personal reasons he did not want to discuss on the record.

Most East Village gardens are run in a communal fashion, meaning the loss of one member wouldn’t bring on a closing scare. But Mr. Rose runs the garden if not with an iron fist, then with a very green thumb. “The good thing about our garden is that it’s run by one guy,” he said. “That’s why it looks the way it does. It’s not a whole bunch of people complaining and compromising — which is most gardens, where it gets political. I sort of became the dictator and did everything when no one else did and it just worked out easily that way.”

Mr. Rose did get assistance from Ron Curtis, a friend who built the garden’s 66 birdhouses and has been involved with it since it opened in 1978. But Mr. Curtis wasn’t an ideal replacement, since he travels constantly. (This summer, he’s in Nova Scotia.) Read more…

Sitting Down to Talk Squatting With Homesteading Museum Founders

MoRUS foundersJared Malsin MoRUS founders Laurie Mittelmann, left, and Bill
DiPaola, right.

After seven months of negotiations, the creators of the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space have finally signed a lease and are busy fundraising, compiling photos and video, and renovating the storefront inside the legendary collective building C-Squat, where the East Village’s first squatting and homesteading museum will be housed.

The signing of the lease on Thursday with the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board marked the formal launch of the project, which is already staging what organizer Laurie Mittelmann calls “spontaneous tours” of squats, community gardens and other sites of street-level confrontation with police and developers over the control of urban space in the East Village since the 1970s.

On Tuesday, The Local visited the Museum’s dedicated video compiling facility (we were asked not to disclose its location), where two of the project’s 30 volunteers were hunched over computers logging video onto hard drives. (Time’s Up has donated over 400 hours of footage to the museum.) On one video, police were issuing a ticket to performance artist Reverend Billy during a 2006 demonstration.

During our visit, Ms. Mittelmann and co-director Bill DiPaola spoke about their vision and plans for the new museum. Read more…

An Empty Lot Becomes A Park, Thanks to Mr. Peanut

A grassy field that was once the site of a demolished building in the Lillian Wald housing complex has been transformed into a park. Planters Grove, which was funded by the Planters company, opened earlier today with a ribbon cutting ceremony and a day of planting, mulching and peanut munching. Representatives from Planters handed out black top hats, one of which Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh donned during a speech praising the “greening of the New York City Housing Authority.”

The park’s centerpiece is a trellis (shaped like a peanut, naturally) that in the spring will hold clematis and climbing roses. “I like that it is kind of subtle and you can’t really tell it is a peanut,” said Lisbeth Shepherd, the founder and executive director of Green City Force, one of the two non-profits that worked with Planters and the New York City Housing Authority on the park’s construction. (The other was the national Corps Network.) Read more…

The Day | In Defense of IHOP

Phillip Kalantzis-Cope

Good morning, East Village.

While Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York offers up another post in support of St. Mark’s Bookshop, it looks like the troubled Heathers may be the latest neighborhood cause célèbre – L magazine’s blog, The Measure, thinks the bar’s liquor license should be renewed because “it is a bastion for a diverse mix of gay and straight creatives who are looking for a drink in an increasingly frat-like East Village bar scene.”

Voice critic Robert Sietsema eats cow tongue at Prune, but that’s hardly his most disconcerting dispatch today: After making light of the “ridiculous amounts of hoopla” over the 14th Street IHOP and pointing out that the place was half-empty around lunchtime, Mr. Sietsema stuffs some pancakes with sausages in an attempt to reproduce a childhood favorite. They’re “still superb.”

Still not sold on IHOP? Jimmy’s No. 43 will start serving brunch on Saturday. According to Zagat Buzz, items will include “‘black and tan’ griddle cakes (complete with ale batter, bananas, salted stout-caramel sauce, curry spiced pretzels, cocoa and powdered sugar).” Grub Street has still more East Village food news, including special meals at Hearth and JoeDoe. Read more…

A Threat to Local Gardens

There are 39 community gardens in the East Village, with one located on nearly every street between East Houston and 14th Street. Ranging from tiny outdoor nooks overflowing with tulips to wide double lots large enough to hold amphitheaters, the gardens offer welcomed botanical getaways from the grit of the city.

But today, urban green spaces face a new threat as lawmakers in Washington D.C. continue to mull over budget cuts to federally funded community development programs including Green Thumb, which provides New York City community gardens with workshops, tools and other necessary supplies.

“Unfortunately, it’s a possibility in all aspects of the government,” said Larry Scott Blackmon, deputy commissioner of community outreach for the NYC Parks Department.

It is a crisis some gardens may be unprepared to face. Grace Tankersley, author of “Community Gardens of the East Village,” said Green Thumb has been a valuable resource for years.

“I don’t know what would happen to the gardens without Green Thumb if it was seriously cut back or destroyed,” Ms. Tankersley said. “At the moment it seems to be a little bit up in the air. Green Thumb is funded totally through the federal government so if they lose their funding the parks department may come through with funding, although they’ve had to cut back on their budget too.”
Read more…

Gardeners Voice Concern Over Rules

NYCCGC town hall meetingStephanie Butnick Longtime East Village resident and community gardener Carolyn Ratcliffe speaking during the meeting.

East Village community gardeners attended a town hall meeting Saturday to express their concern that that recently revised rules governing community gardens don’t do enough to protect the green spaces from the threat of developers.

“This puts gardens in jeopardy,” Charles Krezell, a gardener who attended the meeting, said of the new rules. “We want all gardens protected for as long as they’re standing.”

In an interview before the meeting, Mr. Krezell, of the De Colores Community Yard on East Eighth Street, between Avenues B and C, said that many gardeners are worried that the new regulations don’t grant sufficient legislative protection to community gardens.

Indeed, some worry that East Village gardens may especially be at risk as area real estate continues to lure developers. Community gardeners fear that the wording of the new rules may leave gardens vulnerable.
Read more…

The Day | A New Voice

RoccoAndPhil2Rachel Wise

Good morning, East Village.

Our community is filled with writers whose bylines are recognized well beyond the boundaries of our neighborhood. Today, we’re proud to note that James Traub, a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine who is equally adept at writing about foreign policy or regional governors in Afghanistan or baseball royalty in the Bronx, is bringing his talents to The Local.

Mr. Traub, who has an office on Second Avenue, sought us out for the opportunity to explore the neighborhood he loves in print. He will be writing about the East Village’s extraordinarily diverse food culture in a series of idiosyncratic reported posts that we’ll be featuring over the coming weeks and months. We hope that he will be the first of many of our neighborhood’s authors who choose to share their voices with The Local’s readers.

In other neighborhood news, we wanted to let you know that there is a town hall meeting Saturday afternoon to discuss the new rules on community gardens. The NYC Community Garden Coalition is hosting the meeting at the New School in Wollman Hall, 66 West 12th Street, fifth floor from noon to 4.

NYU Journalism’s Stephanie Butnick will attend the meeting and offer her report Monday. In the meantime, you can read more about the recently enacted rules here.

EVGrieve has a nice interview with sketch artist Terry Galmitz, whose new show “My East Village” opens this weekend. And if you think bedbugs are a big deal here in the East Village take a look at what they have to deal with up the road a piece.

At Gardens, Unease Over New Rules

The Department of Parks and Recreation last week finalized its Community Garden Rules amid growing tumult at gardens in the East Village and across the city. But despite the department’s publicized goal of addressing community concerns over the long-term preservation of the green spaces, the new rules have left some gardeners and activists continuing to pick bones, not flowers.

What do you think about the new rules for community gardens?