This study is a portrayal of the political, ecomic, and cultural history and present of community gardens in a New York City neighborhood, the Lower East Side of Manhattan. An ethgraphic study of a particular instance of urban history, it provides a basis for an understanding of urban community gardens in the United States. Beginning with a historical overview of urban community gardening in the United States and other countries, the author concentrates on the last two decades of the 20th century in this portrayal of a social movement that seeks to impact urban environments both in social and ecomic terms and in terms of ecological dynamics. The last decade in particular has been critical with regard to the development of a broad network of community-based coalitions acting on behalf of urban community gardens. The author considers internal dynamics and organization of individual gardens within the specific social, political, and ecomic context of the Lower East Side and analyzes the political struggle on behalf of community gardens in that neighborhood and the entire city. The author also addresses the diverse ways in which community gardens on the Lower East Side have become critical components in the daily life of urban gardeners, predominantly poor and low-income people.
MALVE VON HASSELL is Adjunct Instructor, Department of Behavioral Sciences, Suffolk County Community College, New York.