Liz Christy, community garden builder

Liz Christy was a founder of the urban community garden group, Green Guerillas. She was the first Director of the Council on the Environment, in New York City’s Open Space Greening Program and LCBH garden was the first winner of the American Forestry Association’s ‘Urban Forestry Award.’ In 1973, Liz Christy and a group of gardening activists were planting window boxes, vacant lots with ‘seed bombs’ and tree pits in the area. They saw the large rubble-strewn lot as a potential garden and in December went to the City to find a way to gain official use of the land. Volunteers… Read More

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Felix Adler, founder NY Society for Ethical Culture

Felix Adler (1851 – 1933) was a professor of political and social ethics, rationalist, influential lecturer on euthanasia, religious leader and social reformer who founded the Ethical Culture movement. Born in Germany, his family immigrated to the United States when he was 6 years old. He studied at Columbia University and continued his education at Heidelberg University in Germany. There he was strongly influenced by neo-Kantianism, especially the notions that one cannot prove or disprove the existence of a deity or immortality, and that morality can be established independently of theology. After realizing being a rabbi was not for him, he entered academia, teaching at Cornell University. In 1876 , he gave a lecture on doing away… Read More

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Simon Congo, freed slave, landowner

Simon Congo (approx 1600/1608 – 1667/1668) was one of the first African men to be brought to New Amsterdam. He was born in the Congo and brought over with Paul d’ Angola, Anthony Portuguese, John Francisco, and seven other males in 1626. Their names indicate that they may have been slaves on Portuguese or Spanish ships captured at sea. Mr. Congo, along with the other men, served the Dutch West India Company in New Amsterdam for around 22 years. The Company released these slaves on a “half‑freedom” plan which gave the Company the produce and periodic labor that it required without… Read More

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Bob Spike, Civil Rights Activist

Robert Warren Spike (1923 – 1966) was a clergyman, theologian, and civil rights leader. Born in Buffalo, NY, he came to NYC while studying for the ministry. He began his career as pastor at the Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village in 1949, reviving the social activism of this famous urban church. During his time at the church, neighborhood kids played basketball in the church’s ramshackle gym and an interracial, international residence for students was established. Spike also helped to create an art gallery where artists could exhibit their unconventional works. In 1958 Spike left his parish ministry to take on a national role as General… Read More

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Edward Judson, Baptist Minister in Greenwich Village

Edward Judson (1844-1914) was a Baptist clergyman. He started his work in the Baptist church in Orange NJ, but ended at the Berean Church, later as the Memorial Baptist, and finally as the Judson Memorial. The church is located on the South Side of Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. Minister Judson was very successful in recruiting people to the Berean Church after the Civil War that a larger space became necessary. In 1888, with the backing of John D. Rockefeller and other prominent Baptists, construction of the church on the south side of the park was begun. The church building was designed by architect Stanford White, with stained-glass windows by John La… Read More

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George Downing, abolitionist and activist

George T. Downing (1819-1903) was an abolitionist and activist for African-American civil rights. From the 1830s until the end of slavery, Downing was active in the abolitionist movement and in the Underground Railroad, with his restaurant serving as a rest house. During the American Civil War, Downing helped recruit African American soldiers. Downing’s grandparents were former slaves. He attended one of the first free African schools in New York City and went on to Hamilton College. In 1842, Downing started a catering business in Manhattan. His work brought him in touch with many of the elites of the city, including the… Read More

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Charles Ludlam, founder Ridiculous Theatrical Company

Charles Ludlam (1943 – 1987) was an actor, director, and playwright born on Long Island NY. He started his theater career while still in high school, performing with friends and in school plays. He received a degree in dramatic literature from Hofstra University in 1964. Ludlam joined John Vaccaro’s Play-House of the Ridiculous, and after a falling out, founded his own Ridiculous Theatrical Company in 1967. His first plays were rudimentary exercises, but they eventually moved into structure plays by Lorca, Shakespeare and Wagner. Some plays he wrote were based on popular culture and were humorous plays with dark or serious undertones. His goal was to… Read More

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