Founded in 1992, La Perla Garden was established on W.105th St. between Columbus and Manhattan Avenues in New York City.
It is named after a ghetto in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Its namesake is a surprisingly beautiful and under appreciated community situated precariously outside the battlements of two adjoining fortresses on the coast of Puerto Rico. There, despite its violent history, it has survived as a colorful, politically active, and unified haven for its residents. Literally, “The Pearl.”
Evoking this legacy, La Perla Garden was born from the violence of a ravaged and fractured neighborhood to become the pearl of Manhattan Valley, and the seed that spawned a revolution in local greening and beautification eorts. Above all, it gave birth to a community where none had existed before, and brought a sense of pride and cross-cultural cooperation to an area whose prior notoriety had been for drug dealing, garbage, and crime. Through unified efforts, adults and children alike discovered the empowerment of reclaiming their own environment, no longer slaves to a fistful of people who had ruined the area for years.
Trellises, trees, community and personal gardening “plots,” a children’s garden, compost, murals, barbecue pit, picnic tables, benches, outdoor gallery, AIDS memorial garden, stone sculpture, community gathering area, flower boxes, banners, a stage…surrounded by battlements of concrete, occupying a space roughly 50’ x 100’, La Perla Garden has been so much more than simply “open space.” It’s been an inspiration and a way of life; a place to celebrate births, and bring the children to dig worms and plant seeds; a quiet respite from daily chaos; a place of music and feasting; concerts under the Christmas lights; and a place of communion with neighbors and earth. We have butteries in La Perla Garden – and lightning bugs, and a variety of birds that never came here before. We have children who come to the garden when things get too rough at home. We have a crab apple tree and heirloom lilies, roses, peonies, dusty miller, and perennials planted in memory of friends now dead. Its strawberries, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and beans grace our tables. It is the soul of our neighborhood.
It should not be valued by dollars, discounted as replaceable by Central Park, treated as “vacant land,” sold, or ignored. It should not be taken away – any more than the 111 other gardens Giuliani has slated for auction this May. All told, 741 gardens are threatened despite the availability of over 14,000 truly vacant lots. This sale of vital, publicly owned land was designed to circumvent community input and involvement. It’s madness.
To find out what you can do to stop it, contact the New York Coalition for the Preservation of Gardens at (212) 777-7969 or visit their website at www.nycgardens.org.
Founding President, La Perla Garden
Established 1992 – West 105th St., Manhattan – Block 1840, Lots 61, 62 & 63