A lush, green oasis offering beauty, peace, education and entertainment.

More than just a nostalgic recreation of life as it was on the islands.

"I have learned to look at the world in a different way," writes Ra-Ra, a gardener at the cherry tree garden.

Cultivating self esteem and personal autonomy.

"We always knew we were gardening on borrowed time."

The Fifth Street Garden is deeply connected to the story of the Fifth Street Squat.

Read a selection of childrens letters to the mayor asking him to spare their garden.

Discuss your Garden Story.
Java's Tale

Relato de Java

I lived on the upper-east side for four years and I never saw a garden. I think I know why but I don't want to say it, believe me J and I walked those streets enough that we would have noticed any space between the looming apartment buildings and huddled brownstones. It didn't seem like anyone cared though, life was just a massive rush of mobility, any direction, it didn't matter which: men in sleek full-body jackets headed for downtown, Wall Street, or midtown office cubicles; kids like us waiting for buses amidst the swell of too many bodies in such a small confined space but it got us where we had to go and gave us a couple minutes worth of warmth, then back outside and into the school building. Again at the end of the day, the whole city in rewind like pushing the button on the VCR and watching the same movie for the thousandth time backwards.

So everyone is so caught up in this huge rush of life that they forget to live it? The people who lived in my old neighborhood don't see how important it is to incorporate something soothing and at the same time uplifting into their daily rush-hour lives? Save it for that yearly one-week wind-down vacation in Aruba? But then there are people like me and J who granted did not live uptown by choice but J's mother has been living on 81st and 1st for twenty years and she is a miracle in herself and deserves a garden on her doorstep even if she doesn't know it.

For kids like J who grow up in the city, nature consists of trees being sold on the street a week before Christmas and then indoors with pretty lights strung around them and then discarded a week later to lean and cry on the shoulders of all the other trees slewn across our sidewalks. I remember the first time we left New York together and we sat on the beach in Florida and didn't talk much just drank in the saltwater playing with our toes and sand through our fingers and the sky so big and then back to the city cuz we had school on Monday. Too bad we couldn't take the world with us.

So now that I've lived out of this city for long enough I have learned to appreciate the simple beauty inherent in life and I look at so many people with entire faces drawn like frowns, skin sagging down against a backdrop of gray sky and structures so much larger than we are, with darkened lungs owing to the quality of the air we breathe, quality being the word of choice these days. And all these children, like J, are born into this gigantic city bubbling with life and if they are lucky their parents take them on a Sunday stroll through a public garden, point at a small pond and say "See? Just like on TV. See the turtles swimming in the pond?" Other then that, wildlife consists of rats and pigeons, maybe a lone lost seagull. Nature is what they sell in the flowershop wrapped in cellophane and mommy takes it home and sticks it in a vase and then five days later Nature is dead.

Our flowers aren't like the ones they sell for three dollars outside the sagging corner groceries that plague our streets. When I walk through one of our gardens I touch everything: flowerpetals, the leaves on trees, sculptures, even the grass, because all of these things are so scarce. Their scent lingers on my fingertips along with the energy and passion of the garden's caretakers that passes through these living things and breathes new life into me, which then I, in turn, try to press gently into everything I touch.