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History

A Brief History of La Plaza

La Plaza Cultural was founded in 1976 by local residents and greening activists who took over what were then a series of vacant city lots piled high with rubble and trash. Determined to reclaim the neighborhood from a downward spiral of arson, drugs and abandonment, members of the Latino group CHARAS cleared out truckloads of refuse.

Working with maverick architect Buckminster Fuller, they built a geodesic dome in the open “plaza” and began staging cultural events.

Green Guerillas pioneer Liz Christy seeded the turf with “seed bombs” and planted what are now our towering weeping willows and linden trees.

Artist Gordon Matta-Clark helped construct La Plaza’s amphitheater using railroad ties and materials reclaimed from abandoned buildings. Later, block residents tilled the western portion and planted vegetables, flowers and fruit trees.

During the 1980s, the garden came under attack by developers seeking to build on the space. After numerous court battles, La Plaza was finally preserved in 2002 as part of a landmark legal settlement that saved scores of gardens across New York City.

In 2003, La Plaza was renamed after Armando Perez, a CHARAS founder and former District Leader of the Lower East Side who was brutally murdered in 1999. Armando recognized the power of gardens to bring communities together. We are honored to bear his name.