Formerly located on 11th Street between Avenues A and B in Manhattan, the Chico Mendez Mural Garden was bulldozed on Tuesday, 30 December 1997 by contractors employed by real estate developer Donald Capoccia. Also destroyed on that horrible day were two gardens located on 10th Street between Avenues B and C: 10BC Garden and El Jardin de la 10.
Named after the Brazilian rainforest activist Francisco "Chico" Mendes (pictured, on the left), murdered by timber and logging interests in 1988, this community garden was started in 1991 by artists Ken Hiratsuka and Chico. Like other community gardens in the area, the Chico Mendez Mural Garden was a real garden, full of vegetables, shrubs and trees. As its name indicates (note the misspelling), the Chico Mendez also contained or, rather, was surrounded by an array of very beautiful, hand-painted murals.
In the summer of 1997, Bill Brown took photographs of most of them. On the wall that faced east: Chico's "In Memory of Anthony of Ave D" (full shot); the anti-smoking message (full shot); and the car-crash (full shot). On the wall that faced west: Leslie Heathcote's "Ocean" mural (detail); and Ron English's mural dedicated to Chico Mendez himself (full shot and detail).
In September 1997, the gardeners renamed the place "Fort Chico Mendez" and erected barricades and other symbols of protest in front of it. Bill took pictures of the upside-down flag within the "fort" (full shot); the locked gate (full shot); and the barricade (full shot, detail 1, detail 2).
Two days after the destruction of the Chico Mendez -- on New Year's Day 1998, the very day that Rudolph Ghouliani was inaugurated into a second term as the Mayor of the City of New York -- two brave and determined garden activists managed to gain access to the event, which was, despite being held outdoors at City Hall, closed to the public! Once at the inauguration, the two unfurled a banner proclaiming SAVE THE GARDENS and chanted "Guiliani whacked the gardens" over and over again until the police arrested them (on charges of disorderly conduct). The two heroes were later released, all charges dismissed.
A few days after that, a curse was placed on anything that's built where the Chico Mendez Mural Garden used to be.
To Contact Bill:
Snail mail: POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998