Located in Manhattan’s Bowery neighborhood, New York City’s first community garden was established in 1973 when local citizen Liz Christy successfully advocated to transform a large, abandoned lot into a working vegetable garden. After attaining permission from city officials, Christy’s Green Guerillas, a band of volunteer gardening activists, spent the first four months of 1974 clearing the lot of detritus, spreading loamy topsoil, erecting fencing, and planting vegetation, including 60 raised vegetable beds, trees, and herbaceous borders. The garden’s success prompted other neighborhoods to reclaim urban wasteland, and in 1986, this garden was dedicated as the Liz Christy’s Bowery-Houston Garden in honor of its founder.
The rectangular parcel stretches along the north side of Houston Street between Bowery, the oldest thoroughfare in Manhattan, and Second Avenue. It fronts a large, mid-rise building and is enclosed by a tall iron fence. The thickly treed parcel, featuring fruit trees, evergreens and weeping birches, contains a small, flagstone-edged fish pond, a wildflower lea, a lone dawn redwood tree, vegetable and berry patches, an herb garden, and an apiary. Pebbled and flagstone paths wind through discrete garden spaces, which are adorned with perennials, a grape arbor, and wooden benches. The dense vegetation provides seclusion and a contemplative garden in the midst of the city. The Liz Christy Community Garden is maintained by volunteers. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Bowery National Register Historic District in 2013.