Clinton Community Garden
W. 47 St., W. 48 St., 9 Ave., 10 Ave.
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Clinton Community Garden
During his lifetime, DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828) held many illustrious jobs, serving as a U.S. Senator, Mayor of New York City and Governor of New York State. The statesman is probably best known for his part in building and opening the 363-mile Erie Canal, which expanded trade to the Midwest and made New York City the commercial hub of America.
One of Clinton’s most visionary and lasting initiatives, unveiled in 1811, was the Manhattan grid street system. This milestone in city planning promoted a systematic development of the island. The plan utilized rectangular blocks to maximize the city’s efficiency and ease of use. The layout arranged 12 north-south avenues perpendicular to 155 east-west cross streets in defiance of Manhattan’s rugged geography. The commission’s plan astutely predicted and accommodated the exponential growth that would occur during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The site that is now Clinton Community Garden was farmland until 1851 when a railroad station was built and brought in waves of Irish, Scotch, and German immigrants. After the Civil War, many African Americans settled in this neighborhood peppered with factories, warehouses, slaughterhouses, breweries, and tenements. Gangs dominated the neighborhood in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a violent era in which the area earned its nickname, Hell’s Kitchen. Immigrants from Greece, Eastern Europe, and Puerto Rico arrived in the 1940s, establishing the neighborhood as one of Manhattan's most culturally diverse. Hoping to change the area’s image, community members in the 1960s pushed for the neighborhood to be renamed Clinton, which in turn supplied the name for this garden.
Owned by the City but left vacant for decades, this lot was once a haven for illegal activity and an eyesore for area residents. In 1978, the surrounding community decided to clean up the property and the Green Guerillas, a non-profit environmental group dedicated to preserving urban gardens, helped secure a lease the following year. The Green Guerillas dug garden plots, excavated and recycle thousands of bricks to serve as pathways, and grew vegetables and flowers. In 1981, the City proposed putting the property up for auction. The gardeners formed the Committee to Save Clinton Community Garden and ran a “Square Inch Campaign,” in which a $5.00 donation “bought” a piece of the garden. The story earned national attention in magazine, newspaper, and television features, as well as the support of Mayor Edward I. Koch, who bought the first square inch of the garden. One month before the auction was to take place, the garden was transferred to Parks, making it the first community garden to become parkland. The land is now licensed to the non-profit Clinton Community Garden, Inc., whose elected Steering Committee manages the Garden. The Vincent Astor Foundation, Trust for Public Land, Housing Conservation Coordinators, Green Guerrillas, Operation GreenThumb, Greenacre Foundation, City Parks Foundation, Ninth Avenue Association, Community Board No. 4, and the West 47th/48th Streets Block Association have all been instrumental to the growth of this beautiful oasis.
Highlights include a sun and shade rock garden, grape arbors, Italian honeybee hives, organic composting services, winding brick paths, an edible plant garden, and the North American native plants bed. Functions held in the Garden include potluck dinners, art shows, harvest festivals, weddings, chamber music picnics, gardening seminars, dance recitals, and memorials.