La Plaza Cultural de Armando Perez
La Plaza Cultural de Armando Perez (La Plaza Cultural) is an iconic community garden and public green space located in the Lower East Side/East Village of New York City. A community garden, park, playground, wildlife refuge, urban farm, community composting site, and performance venue, La Plaza Cultural is also utilized by local day-care centers, after-school programs and a growing number of parents with small children.
La Plaza Cultural was founded in 1976 by local residents and greening activists who took over what were then a series of vacant city lots piled high with rubble and trash. In an effort to improve the neighborhood during a downward trend of arson, drugs, and abandonment common in that era, members of the Latino group CHARAS cleared out truckloads of refuse. Working with Buckminster Fuller, they built a geodesic dome in the open “plaza” and began staging cultural events. Green Guerillas pioneer Liz Christy seeded the turf with “seed bombs” and planted towering weeping willows and linden trees. Artist Gordon Matta-Clark helped construct La Plaza’s amphitheater using railroad ties and materials reclaimed from abandoned buildings. Later, block residents tilled the western portion of the space and planted vegetables, flowers and fruit trees. During the 1980s, the garden came under attack by developers seeking to build on the space. After numerous court battles, La Plaza was finally preserved in 2002 as part of the terms of a legal settlement. In 2003, La Plaza was renamed in memory of Armando Perez, a CHARAS founder and former District Leader of the Lower East Side who was killed in 1999.