July 16, 2000

'Adam Purple's Fans Seek to Preserve Bits of His History'
by Colin Moynihan

For years, a six-story tenement at 184 Forsyth Street was home to Adam Purple, best known for creating an elaborate garden on nearby empty lots, which the city bulldozed in 1986. In 1999, when Mr. Purple left Manhattan for undisclosed greener precincts, he left many possessions in his apartment. Fond memories of Mr. Purple also remained.

Early this month, the city announced that the weathered building, between Stanton and Rivington Streets, was to be demolished. Local residents rushed to the site to carry away and preserve bits of Mr. Purple's history. Mr. Purple, who moved into 184 Forsyth Street in 1972, was a vivid presence on the Lower East Side. During much of the 70's and early 80's he dressed in purple from head to toe. But after his garden, known as the Garden of Eden, was destroyed, he packed those clothes away.

In 1976, his building was abandoned by its owner and transferred to the city. When the electricity was cut off in 1981, all the tenants but Mr. Purple left. During the next 18 years, he lived on the ground floor, subsisting on $2,000 a year, mostly from redeeming cans and bottles, and surviving on vegetarian stew and hydrant water.

"Adam tried to tread very lightly on the planet," said Ariane Burgess, a friend. "He was really conscious of the fact that the way people live affects the environment."

Recently, boxes of salvaged papers belonging to Mr. Purple were catalogued at ABC No Rio, a cultural center on Rivington Street. Among them were schematics of the Garden of Eden and a letter from Harper's magazine inviting Mr. Purple to submit a manuscript. Many pieces of correspondence used Mr. Purple's pseudonyms: a letter from Ed Koch soliciting help in his re-election campaign was addressed to General Zen.

When Ms. Burgess told Mr. Purple that people were moving items from his former home, he had a request: "He said to make sure we save the black raspberry bushes. At one time they were in the Garden of Eden."

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