We can look to our history for many examples of individuals who made an impactful difference, creating positive change in their neighborhoods, their cities, and their world. This video, produced by Vox Media, highlights the efforts of Hattie Carthan and Liz Christy, both residents of New York City, whose efforts to promote green space in the 1960’s and 70’s led to lasting change in the urban landscape.
In the 1960s and 1970s, New York City faced a sharp economic decline and white flight. Buildings were abandoned or burned down, particularly in the city’s lower-income neighborhoods. Communities faced mass disinvestment — and what was left was urban decay.
It was around this time that Hattie Carthan, a 64-year-old woman living in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, began a grassroots effort to transform that urban decay into green space. What started with four newly planted trees in her neighborhood turned into 1,500.
Along with guerrilla gardening efforts popularized by the “seed bombs” of Lower East Side gardener Liz Christy, Hattie’s urban environmental movement paved the way for the city’s support for community gardens.
Today, around 500 community gardens line streets across New York City. But the history of how we got them — through the radical work of people like Hattie and Liz — is often overlooked. Check out the video above to learn more about their stories and how they ultimately transformed the landscape of New York City.
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