On July 2, 1977, a seventeen-year-old boy set fire to an abandoned tenement building on New York City’s Lower East Side. This fire was just a flicker in an enormous mid-1970s arson wave that struck New York’s poorest neighborhoods; it is remembered today only because a young firefighter named Marty Celic fell to his death as the building collapsed.
Today the site, on East Eighth Street between Avenue C and Avenue D, is the home of a flourishing community garden named in Celic’s memory. A couple of dozen individual plots of flowers, herbs, and vegetables surround a large common green. The garden, which is maintained entirely by neighborhood residents, was born as a wildcat operation in the years after the arson; Ladder Company 18, where Celic served, has given substantial support. The project was given the city’s official blessing and protection, under a program called “Operation Green Thumb,” in 1988....
For just $19.95 a year, get access to new issues and decades' worth of archives on our site.
Print + Online
For $35 a year, get new issues delivered to your door and access to our full online archives.