Can you dig it? ‘Day of the Dirt’ restores La Plaza | East Villager & Lower East Sider

Can you dig it? ‘Day of the Dirt’ restores La Plaza

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON  |  To preserve their garden, members of La Plaza Cultural decided it was time to get down and dirty on Saturday.

Dozens in the garden, at E. Ninth St. and Avenue C, were scooping and hauling new soil, or related tasks, as part of the aptly named “Day of the Dirt.”

Bill LoSasso and Carolyn Ratcliffe scooped fresh soil into a wheelbarrow so it could be spread out around La Plaza Cultural on Saturday. PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

Bill LoSasso and Carolyn Ratcliffe scooped fresh soil into a wheelbarrow so it could be spread out around La Plaza Cultural on Saturday.
PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

In all, 50 cubic yards — equal to 50 tons — of fresh dirt had been dumped in the garden in a huge mound the previous day, and they then spread it all around on Saturday. Bill LoSasso, a Community Board 3 member and the garden’s executive director, said the community garden had been losing soil, and Superstorm Sandy only added to the problem. In short, there were concerns that the storm’s surge waters might have contaminated the soil.

Marga Snyder noted there had been “a lot of talk in the street” about the garden’s soil, so they “had to set the record straight.”

But testing by GreenThumb subsequently found very low levels of toxins, on par with what would be expected in any Manhattan plot, including low amounts of led and aluminum and very low PCB’s. Nevertheless, LoSasso said, children play in the garden and they wanted to ensure its safety. Hence, the “Day of the Dirt.”

Gardeners also installed semipermeable liners under their plots.

Everyone was working diligently, then around 1 p.m. paused briefly to dig into something else — pizza — before returning to scooping, toting and spreading the new soil.

“The larger thing was preserving the garden after Sandy,” LoSasso said. “We lost like 25 trees — so there is this physical and psychological reset. They fought in the ’90s to keep these spaces. We’re really the stewards of this neighborhood now. It’s really our responsibility to restore it, to preserve it — now and into the future.”