A Return to the First Street Garden

More than a year ago I wrote about my discovery of the First Street Garden, a community garden supported by the Lower East Side Girls Club. (You can find that earlier post here.) What first drew my attention to the garden were the murals painted on the walls, but I only had a limited glimpse through the padlocked fence. I returned multiple times, hoping to arrive when the garden was open, and my persistence finally paid off! This time I got much better views of the murals, which commemorate women who have had an important influence on New York and United States history.

Here are some of the murals I discovered. First, there is this one of journalist and activist Dorothy Day, by an artist named Nicolina.

Next, there is this colorful portrait of Shirley Chisholm, by artist Lenora Jayne. A New Yorker, Chisholm became the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress in 1968.

Peering from behind the ivy was this mural of Rosie Mendez, a former NYC councilwoman who served from 2006 to 2017. The artist’s signature says “Carolina.” Mendez was a leader of the LGBT Caucus within the City Council, and is also known for sponsoring the law that ultimately banned the use of wild animals in circuses in the city.

A ladder and more ivy partially obscured this portrait of African-American journalist and activist Ida B. Wells, most known for her covered of the terrible lynchings that took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an artist’s signature on this one.

Here’s one of urban activist Jane Jacobs, usually credited with helping to save Greenwich Village from urban development in the 1960s. (Once again, there was no artist’s signature.)

There are murals of two major leaders in the suffragist and women’s rights movements, Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony. There was no signature on the Paul portrait, but the Anthony portrait was painted by street artist Lexibella, with the help of Gianesina and Lizabeth.

This unsigned portrait of civil rights activist Rosa Parks may be a little faded, but I still loved it.

There are more portraits as well, but I will leave you to discover them when you visit. As I end this post, I wanted to share this important message that’s been added to the garden since my first visit.

The First Street Garden is located on First Street between First and Second Avenues. The closest subway station is the Second Street station, which is accessible from the F train. (Additionally, an access point for the First Street Green Cultural Park is located just down the street from the First Street Garden. You’ll always find original, fresh street art there.) According to the sign on the garden’s gate, the it is open on Friday afternoons, 4:00-6:00 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4:00 pm.

Public Art at the First Street Green Cultural Park

You can find a lot of street art on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and more is going up all the time. Much of that street art is painted on the side of buildings, but there is also a public park that hosts street artists. It is known as the First Street Green Cultural Park, but is also sometimes called the First Street Garden.

I’ve chosen some of my favorite pieces that are on exhibit at the park right now, but keep in mind that the street art here is considered temporary. Periodically, artists come in and paint new murals over the old ones, so you may not find all of these murals there if you don’t visit for a while. You are likely to discover new intriguing work though, which is an added bonus. Here are my choices, illustrating the wide range of artistic styles. Enjoy! (I took these photos just before the plants started getting really green this Spring – makes it look a bit like a desert landscape, unfortunately, but at least it was easier to see the murals that way! It’s much greener now.)

This first colorful mural is a collaboration by Brazilian and American artists Opni, Panmela Castro, and Maidu.

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Here’s a close-up view of the face from the previous mural.

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There is also a fun mural by Ramiro Davaro-Comas (@ramirostudios).

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Here’s a close-up view of a few of his characters – I love how whimsical his work is.

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There is this piece by Huetek, a graphic designer, artist, and musician. I really like the dove hidden in the lettering in this mural.

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There’s this geometric mural by Allysa Steiger.

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Artist Key Detail painted this brightly colored and slightly ominous looking mural.

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And street artist Topaz painted this mural of the iconic Katz’s Delicatessen. (The traditional Jewish deli is just a few blocks away from the park, at 205 E. Houston Street.)

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There are two really interesting murals by Hektad, both incorporating mixed media. First, this one includes two of Hektad’s signatures, the stenciled heart and the little graffiti character.

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This second one is a collaboration between Hektad, Pictoform, and possibly another artist. I love the astronaut!

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Even the chain link fencing became a canvas for mixed-media installations by unnamed artists. If you look closely, this one spells out “Love.”

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And this one is also fun.

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Finally, I wanted to include this piece, titled “Signpost,” by artist Stuart Ringholt. In the background, several other murals are visible.

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How do you get here? First Street Green Cultural Park is located on the north side of E. Houston Street (pronounced How-stun, not Hoo-stun – it’s one way to tell locals from the tourists!), between 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue. The closest subway station is the 2nd Avenue Station, located just across the street from the park, and accessible on the F train.