Though I was unable to attend the class trip to la Plaza Cultural, I’ve watched several videos created by members of the garden, and was really impressed by what they have been able to accomplish and overcome. After watching this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=470&v=bB-3Bp2pWh8 I was able to grasp that la Plaza has been from its beginnings a place for community action and activism.
It was founded by members of the community in the 1970s who, in the words of one of the garden members in this video, “weren’t going to let their environment be described by broken down buildings.” And I think this attitude has stuck throughout the years and the many cycles the garden has gone through. Original members were able to adapt to their situation of living in an area of New York City that many people would cast aside as being violent, dirty, and down-trodden. They didn’t accept this description of the neighborhood that they called home, and instead took action. To me, this represents a feat of great resiliency. This resilience of La Plaza carried through the years and was tested by the effects of both Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy.
In this video, seeing footage of Hurricane Sandy’s effects on the garden was really devastating. I only have a small connection to the garden, so I cannot imagine what those people felt who have been a part of it for even twenty years. One man mentioned that he saw some of the plants he had planted seventeen years ago be killed by the wastewater and washed away. Despite this, he felt that the opportunity to use new, pure soil and plant new was a greatly positive thing. Hurricane Sandy’s toll functioned as a blank slate for the garden – at least in terms of their crops and plants. Their resolve and spirit and history could not be taken away. Now, they were able to implement more sustainable and resilient planting and growing methods to have strength against future storms. Planting in the permaculture method encourages this systems-thinking and resilience. Other methods such as using a bioswale to collect wastewater is more sustainable in terms of water conservation, and protects the garden from such extreme future flooding. Along with their new soil, composting methods such as hugelkultur will further enrich their soil, which had been dredged with the polluted sewage and chemical-laced flood water from Hurricane Sandy.
Additionally, La Plaza Cultural is not only a garden. It serves as a performance space and a place to host events. This comprehensive approach definitely reflects what Marlon Williams was speaking of when he mentioned the difference between a space and a place. Many people in the video I watched mentioned that La Plaza felt like an extension of their home. This aspect of personalized space and community is also extremely important to overall health. Though I didn’t attend the class trip to La Plaza Cultural, it seems like a very inspiring place with a rich history, and I would love to visit and learn even more!