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Seattle's Million Flower Compost Delivered to WTC Area Liberty Community Garden Sat. Sept. 28th

  • Subject: [cg] Seattle's Million Flower Compost Delivered to WTC Area Liberty Community Garden Sat. Sept. 28th
  • From: "Honigman, Adam" Adam.Honigman@Bowne.com
  • Date: Wed, 2 Oct 2002 11:28:31 -0400


You'll be reading more coverage of this remarkable event later, but this
story is too amazing to sit on.

Adam Honigman 


Tuesday, October 1, 2002


Special to the Post-Intelligencer

NEW YORK -- Five wheelbarrows full of Seattle-made compost were lined up at 
the entrance to Liberty Community Garden in lower Manhattan. It was the last

move for the compost in its cross-country mission to enrich a garden 
decimated by the World Trade Center attack.

Nearly 100 people attended the garden rededication ceremony Saturday in 
Battery Park City on the southwest tip of the island. Two Seattle City 
Council members joined New York politicians and community garden leaders
both cities in a symbolic gesture of rebirth.

The presentation of one cubic yard -- about 1,400 pounds -- of Million
Compost was a key element of the garden rededication.

The compost was created from flowers contributed to the flower vigil at 
Seattle Center after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Most of the 30 
yards of compost went back to Seattle Center, where a small bag of it was 
given along with a tulip bulb to 20,000 people at a remembrance this past 
Sept. 11. Some also will be used on Seattle Center grounds, and at the 
Interbay P-Patch.

Members of the Seattle contingent traveled to New York at their own cost or 
with donated funds. The compost, created by hundreds of volunteers at 
Interbay P-Patch, was transported using donations from Taylor Shellfish in 
Shelton and United Parcel Service. 

Seattle poet Ann Hursey and musician John Van Amerongen used their artistic 
skills to share feelings about the event. Seven-year-old Mason Shigenaka, 
whose father is a P-Patch gardener, brought poems about Liberty's rebirth 
written by students at his Seattle school, John Stanford International. 

"Compost is a metaphor for renewal, it's a metaphor for new life, and it's a

metaphor for restoration," Seattle City Council member Richard Conlin said. 
"I think it's also a tribute to tenacity, and these gardens are a tribute to

the tenacity of the people of the Liberty Garden area. It shows people care 
very much about having a garden."

"It's not just about gardens, not just about community. It's about the human

spirit," said Alan Gerson, New York City Council member from the First 

"Planting has been part and parcel of confidence in every human society that

it would persevere through good times and through bad times," Gerson said. 
"This is a continuation of our rebirth."

Seattle City Council member Judy Nicastro, who grew up in New Jersey and 
lived in Manhattan for five years, also attended the ceremony and was moved 
by the Seattle gardeners' gesture. "That fact that Seattle is so intimately 
sharing this compost went right to my heart," she said.

Gardeners who made the compost wanted to give some to New Yorkers as a
of solidarity.

"I can't imagine what people in this neighborhood went through. Even in 
Seattle, we were emotionally drained," said Jon Rowley, who was Interbay 
garden coordinator and a leader in the composting effort. "The day we made 
the compost, we made a commitment to send it to a community garden in New 
York City."

But, he said, "we had no clue there was a community garden only a 
block-and-a-half from the World Trade Center."

Although the Battery Park gardens were knee-deep in debris and the 
neighborhood was cordoned off after the 9/11 attacks, gardeners say they 
believed they would return to grow again.

"I came out to look at my garden, and everything was coated with 3 to 4 
inches of gray dust," recalls Mike McCormack, an attorney who lives and
within four blocks of the garden. "But there were two or three marigolds 
coming up, and it looked like they were growing through the dust."

Returning only briefly to get belongings, it would be three weeks before he 
would set foot in his garden. "We spent pretty much the whole winter
out how to get the gardens back."

The gardens were battered on all sides: In the north section, where 28 
gardeners had plots, Environmental Protection Agency workers vacuumed up all

the plants along with the ash. During reconstruction efforts, a pedestrian 
bridge over busy West Street was planned that would land right on the

The separate south section, home to 29 gardeners, was spared such 
heavy-handed cleaning, said Tessa Huxley, executive director of the parks 
agency. Staff gardeners from the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy saved 
the plants by removing ash by hand a week after the attack, using shovels, 
rakes and trowels. The soil was tested and found to be free of asbestos and 
heavy metals, so the garden could be salvaged.

"The biggest problem we had with the dust was that it was very base -- it
a lot of Sheetrock, so lots of calcium," Huxley said. "We had to amend the 
soil to make it more acidic."

For the first time, she said, the garden had to purchase compost. "We lost 
all our abilities to make compost last fall, because all of our leaves were 
covered in dust. So we appreciate very much this gift. It has such meaning
all of us here."

To accommodate the gardeners from the destroyed north section, new garden 
plots were created in front of Liberty Court, a condominium building 
adjoining the south section, but that ground wasn't suitable for gardening.

"After 9/11, they put a pyramid of destroyed cars up to the sixth or seventh

floor of this building, 50 to 60 feet high," said McCormack. The cars were 
removed, then so was the soil on which they'd sat. The area was then
with clean soil and, yes, compost.

The common element in Liberty's rebirth holds a deep significance for local 
gardener Miriam Kimmelman.

"I gardened with my husband, whose heart and soul was in compost," she said,

explaining that Richard Washburn, who died in May 2001, helped build 
Liberty's compost bins. The couple was attracted to Battery Park City
of the presence of a community garden, and had gardened there for nine

"The compost is really important to me because it was so important to my 
husband," she said. "I want to commune with him, and am really happy to get
garden, and now to have real compost to work with.

"It's a healing experience to work in the garden."


Photo:  Mason Shigenaka, 7, presents poems from his Seattle classmates to 
Mike McCormack of Liberty Community Garden at a ceremony in Manhattan last 


Bill Thorness, a former Seattle Tilth board president, is a free-lance
based in Greenwich, Conn. He can be reached at thorness@wa.net

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