Some Lower East Side residents are angry that a garden where their kids play is being turned into a construction site. Tracie Strahan reports. (video courtesy of EGRIEVE)
Kids and community activists faced off against construction workers who erected a fence on Wednesday through a children's garden that supporters say has been a treasured swath of green on the Lower East Side for 31 years.
A group of children and adults yelled "shame on you, shame on you, shame on you," at workers who they say dug up plants to put up the chain-link fence through the Children's Magical Garden at Stanton and Norfolk streets. Private security was on site to guard the workers, and police officers also arrived to help keep the peace.
"You come over here and tell him you're taking his garden, you coward," yelled one of the activists.
Since the 1980s, the garden has been dedicated to helping children grow edible plants to learn about gardening and harvesting. The space was transformed decades ago from a trash-filled vacant lot into a green learning space for kids.
The garden is divided into three parcels; one is owned by a developer and the other two are city land, according to Kate Temple-West, director of the garden.
The garden's supporters have, in recent months, been lobbying the city to turn its two parcels over to the Parks Department so that nothing can be built there. They have also been trying to convince the developer to give up or sell his portion, Temple-West said.
"This garden is especially for the children and that's what makes it so so hard because children just don't understand how anybody can do this," she said.
She said the fence went up without warning on Wednesday, cutting through the garden along the border of the developer's space.
"We were hoping that he would wait, and talk with us about potentially finding another space for his building through whatever means necessary," she said.
City Councilwoman Margaret Chin said in a statement that it has asked the developer to remove the fence.
"The Children's Magical Garden is a community treasure, and we want to keep it in the neighborhood," Chin said.
The developer, identified by Temple-West as Serge Hoyda, did not return requests for comment.