History (draft)


La Plaza Cultural de Armando Perez Community Garden was founded in 1976 by local residents and greening activists who took over what was then a series of vacant city lots piled high with rubble and trash. In an effort to improve the neighborhood during a downward trend of arson, drugs, and abandonment common in that era, members of the Latino group CHARAS cleared out truckloads of refuse. Working with Buckminster Fuller, they built a geodesic dome in the open “plaza” and began staging cultural events. Green Guerillas pioneer Liz Christy seeded the turf with “seed bombs” and planted towering weeping willows and linden trees. Artist Gordon Matta-Clark helped construct La Plaza’s amphitheater using railroad ties and materials reclaimed from abandoned buildings.

Later, block residents tilled the western portion of the space and planted vegetables, flowers, and fruit trees. During the 1980s, the garden came under attack by developers seeking to build on the space. After numerous court battles, La Plaza was finally preserved in 2002 as part of the terms of a legal settlement.

In 2003, La Plaza was renamed in memory of Armando Perez, a CHARAS founder and former District Leader of the Lower East Side who was killed in 1999.

Here is a good link: http://www.laluchaartmakers.org/la-plaza-cultural

Don Yorty writes:

La Plaza maybe December 1988. Keith Haring gave me money to buy the paint and Patricia Kelly did the mural, and some of the money Keith gave went to the lawyer which was very important because nobody wanted to give any money to the lawyer because La Plaza was a lost cause and the bulldozers were coming. The soup kitchen had probably been kicked out that August by the block, and it took months just to get all the syringes sifted so I’m thinking this may actually be the winter of 1989. It was pretty much a huge vacant lot between ninth Street and eighth Street and maybe all the way to seventh so I would take wheelbarrows full of garbage and dump them there, wheel barrels and wheel barrels. All this time we had delayed the bulldozers because we were in the state Supreme Court. We lost our case that La Plaza was a park but was appealing. I am going to write a book if I can get started, just get started.

Jon writes:

This photo I took from my window when I learned that they were plans for the HUD project. Some of us began to form a block association to try to save the park. There were so many vacant lots around I thought that the city would soon come to its senses and let the park remain and put the housing somewhere else.
This photo with the kids was taken at the same time so this would be like August 1987. All the guys under the willow tree at the benches were crack dealers so there was crack beginning to happen even then and there was pot being sold as well, But the pot gave way to the crack.

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