The East Village is home to New York City’s community garden district. From 14th Street down to Houston Street, there are 47 public gardens nestled between apartment buildings. The largest is El Sol Brillante.
Located on 12th Street between Avenues A and B, this oasis is maintained and used as a sanctuary for nature by its community members. Each of the 40 plots are designated to members of the garden who plant and maintain them year-round.
Before El Sol Brilliante, apartment buildings stood on this land housing mostly Irish, German, Italian, Jewish and Chinese immigrants.
In the fall of 1976, four of these buildings were demolished as a result of private owner disinvestment in the Lower East Side. Urban homestead groups like the 11th Street Movement were eager to make use of the empty plot and rehabilitate the area. Neighbors and local leadership took it into their own hands to develop this garden and turned a pile of rubble into the beautifully diverse garden open today.
The garden hosts activities year-round, including concerts, weekly produce deliveries from local farms, and compost open to the public.
El Sol members are especially proud of their composting system, Bukashi, which, unlike most composts, can process meats and dairy products. Once a month, members and volunteers meet to distribute the compost throughout the garden.
If you want to leave the city without actually leaving the city, New York City’s hidden gem, the community garden district, is a great place to start.