A Chronology of
|1900-1980 Ten tenement buildings were destroyed in the area that would become El Jardín del Paraíso.|
|1960s-1970s The stage is set for the reemergence of community gardens during this time due to three factors: a large influx of immigrants, predominantly from agrarian cultures; the movement of many city-dwellers to the suburbs; and the deactivation of many fire houses due to dwindling city budgets. The result of the is a dramatic increase in burned-out vacant lots. These empty lots become the territory of drug dealers and the dumping grounds for rubble and toxic wastes and yet they bring a new openness to this area of Manhattan. Two movements worked to bring green spaces to the neighborhood of the Lower East Side: the homesteading and the gardening movements. Homesteaders work to rehabilitate buildings. Gardeners removed the rubble and turn the soil, reclaiming the vacant lots. El Jardín del Paraíso is founded by these two groups who were inspired by the idea that the space was large enough to be a park and a community garden.|
|1973 Liz Christy founds the Green Guerillas, a grass-roots organization dedicated to aiding neighborhoods and providing guidance and education in the creation of new community gardens. The organization recognizes the need for city involvement and lobbies for formal recognition. It is believed that Liz planted El Jardín del Paraíso's existing two Weeping Willow trees.
Left: a casita was built in the garden in 1992 but was recently removed.
|1978 Mayor Koch establishes the Green Thumb program, whose function is to regulate the unofficial use of land by issuing leases for abandoned lots; and to supply tools, seeds and chain link fencing for enclosing community gardens.
1981 El Jardín del Paraíso is created as a green space for use by the surrounding Neighborhood. It begins with the leasing of 9 contiguous city owned lots from Green Thumb. A process to make El Jardín del Paraíso a permanent park begins with the petitioning of Community Board #3. Homesteaders, religious leaders, the Junior League, and the principal of P.S. 15 are among community supporters.
1982 Eight year old Carmen Rivera is killed in crossfire between warring drug dealers in the park. Later in the year the building of a playground in her memory is proposed.
1985 The community makes its first request to the Department of Parks and Recreation in an effort to grow from 9 to 12 lots by acquiring three adjoining city lots for development as a park and playground. Believing that the park's land needs more protection in a time of rising land values in the Lower East Side, an agreement is reached with the Department of Parks that the project is to be co-administered by El Jardin, the Department of Parks, and the Board of Education.
1986 The Parklands Office of the City of NY Parks and Recreation Department prepares a formal request to acquire the three land parcels for park development. The Department of Parks and Recreation begins the process of acquiring the land parcels. At this time El Jardín del Paraíso files for a certificate of incorporation which is approved.
1988 A landscape architect with Project for Public Spaces prepares a preliminary plan.
1989 The owner of the three sought after lots destroyed the hand-built playground equipment located on his empty lots and turns one of the lots into a collection spot for clean fill.
1992 A Casita is built. When the park's perimeter expands, the group of people who had built the Casita become members involved in the whole park project.
1993 An application is filed by the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to acquire three privately-owned lots, 10, 15 and 60, and to select nine city lots, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 59, 62, and 64, for use as a park. In this same year the nine City-owned lots are transferred to the Parks Department. One of the three privately-owned lots come into the project through the default of real estate taxes. In this same year Borough President Ruth Messinger allocates funds for the purchase of the remaining two lots which are finally acquired in 1999.
1996 An archaeological/historical sensitivity evaluation is done for lot 59 by Greenhouse Consultants Incorporated in preparation for action on the application of 1993.
1997 In January of this year a resolution by Community Board 3 recommends approval of the original application of 1993, with the stipulation that a city lot in the area of El Jardín del Paraíso be traded for the privately owned Lot 15.
1999 The New York City Planning Commission granted park status with the stipulation that the park "contain community gardens and passive recreation areas." It will feature "hands-on" interactive gardening and environmental resources for students and community residents consisting of traditional active and passive recreational spaces as well as gardens. There will be direct access to the park from the school playground during school hours." The park is dedicated on October 22, 1999 by Commissioner Henry Stern. El Jardín del Paraíso is the first new park built on the Lower East Side in almost thirty years.
Two youth groups, the Park Rangers and the Earth Keepers, are formed to teach students at the Lower East Side School about ecology and care of the park. Two of their contributions include the children's garden and the butterfly garden.
2000 A Master Plan for El Jardín del Paraíso is created by Marie Stella Byrnes, Landscape Historian and Designer, funded by Greenacre Foundation. In addition, a grant is received from City Gardens Club of New York City.
2001 A grant is received from Greenacre Foundation for the installation of cold water and borings. Over the years valuable contributions have been made by Operation Green Thumb through its leadership in the garden movement, technical assistance and materials; Trust for Public Land for its support of children's gardening programs, grants, and technical support; the Council on the Environment; and the Green Guerillas for their advice and support.
2002 Programs held in El Jardín del Paraíso include: films for children, puppet events, a biodiversity project with the Earth School and Tompkins Square Middle School. The master plan is worked on and funds are received to build an envinmentally sound pathway, with a plan for water conservation. Visiting consultants include Paul Mankewicz from Gaia Institute and Dave Jackie, a permaculture expert.