Brewer digs gardens fest

In La Plaza Cultural at the kickoff of the LUNGS Harvest Festival, from left, garden activist Ayo Harringon, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, Borough President Gale Brewer and garden activist Charles Krezell. Photo by Sarah Ferguson

In La Plaza Cultural at the kickoff of the LUNGS Harvest Festival, from left, garden activist Ayo Harringon, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, Borough President Gale Brewer and garden activist Charles Krezell. Photo by Sarah Ferguson

BY SARAH FERGUSON | Among those celebrating the fecundity of Lower East Side community gardens this weekend was Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Brewer addressed the big crowd gathered at La Plaza Cultural on E. Ninth St. and Avenue C last Friday for the opening night of the Fifth Annual LUNGS Harvest Festival.

The event featured great food donated by neighborhood restaurants and Afropop courtesy of The Source — kicking off a whole weekend of free performances and workshops hosted in some 50 green spaces across Lower Manhattan. Afterwards, The Villager asked Brewer to share her perspective on the festival and the East Village gardening movement that spawned it.

Brewer is a veteran of many garden wars — going back to 1979, when she served as chief of staff to Ruth Messinger and became embattled in the fight to save the D.O.M.E. Garden on the Upper West Side (bulldozed in 1994).

Asked about her take on the evolution of the garden scene today, Brewer said, “The good news is here — unlike everywhere else, there’s a lot of collaboration.”

“The Lower East Side is gardens, plural,” she elaborated. “Many different kinds of people work together here to create them. That’s not true in all areas of the city.

“It’s not just the gardens, it’s the gardeners,” Brewer emphasized. “And that creates a powerful constituency.”

Asked to weigh in on the latest local fight, over the Elizabeth St. Garden, which is currently slated for affordable housing, Brewer was noncommittal.

“I’d love to keep it, but we need the affordable housing,” she said, echoing the stance of the de Blasio administration and the area’s councilmember, Margaret Chin, who has been unbending in her push for housing on the site.

But when reminded of the dearth of green space in the corridor of Little Italy where the Elizabeth St. Garden resides, Brewer seemed more amenable.

“So maybe there could be some compromise,” she said, giving a nod to the many who are now urging the city to find an alternate site for the housing. “I’m in the middle,” Brewer said.

Community Board 2 is urging that the housing be built on a long-vacant city-owned lot of roughly equal size at Hudson and Clarkson Sts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *