Volume 81, Number 21 | October 27 - November 2, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photos by Bob Krasner

Clockwise from top: Kids wander down a pathway in lush El Sol Brillante Garden; members at the party; sharing a tender moment in an urban green oasis.

Garden party, music and food were simply Brillante

By Bob Krasner

The East Village is lucky to have a number of community gardens, and every once in a while it’s a good idea to celebrate that blessing. The members of El Sol Brillante Garden, on E. 12th between Avenues A and B, celebrated theirs with music, food and camaraderie on Sat., Oct. 15, from “noon till moon,” as they put it. 

Many of the garden’s 50 members spent the day with their friends and neighbors listening to live music — jazz, soul, funk and jamming percussionists — while eating homemade salads and treats.

Members contributed various foods to be sold as a benefit for the garden, as did local restaurant Ciao for Now. Kevin Micelli, the restaurant’s owner, has been contributing to the garden for 10 years now, donating leftover vegetables, coffee grinds and eggshells for the compost.

Frank Vigilante, El Sol Brillante’s current president, has been a member for quite a while. It took him a little time to get there, though. Although his apartment overlooks the garden, he spent three years looking at it from his window without going in. He finally took his first steps inside it 15 years ago and he’s been going in daily ever since.

“It’s a very spiritual experience,” he said. “I can feel the labor and love of the people who created it.”

One of those people was original co-founder Florence Bond Gonzalez, the deceased mother of garden member Ken Bond. Ken’s had his own plot since 2005 and he has built much of the structure inside the garden, including the fountain. Many of the bricks used in various plots were from the remains of the three buildings that originally stood on the lot.

For Bond the best part of the place is its peacefulness. One can sit among the 20 different plots, each with its own member’s style and watch for the 25 or so different bird species that fly in. The gardening itself is “very therapeutic,” he noted. 

Anyone is welcome to come in whenever a member has opened the garden’s gate. Prospective members are encouraged to attend the garden’s next meeting, which will be posted on the fence (a work of art created by noted sculptor Julie Dermansky) as soon as they know when it is. And don’t worry if you missed this year’s party — there will be another one next year. 

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