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Adam Purple, Lower East Side's Most Colorful Environmentalist, Dies At 84

By Savannah Cox | September 16, 2015 11:54am
 Eccentric environmentalist Adam Purple died on Monday of an apparent heart attack.
Eccentric environmentalist Adam Purple died on Monday of an apparent heart attack.
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Harvey Wang

It's a sad time for the city's garden lovers.

Adam Purple, the Lower East Side's legendary, long-bearded and bespectacled nature enthusiast, died on Monday of an apparent heart attack, according to the environmental group Time's Up, which had taken Mr. Purple in over the past few years.

The green-thumbed Lynyrd Skynyrd lookalike was born in Missouri and moved to New York City in 1968, where over the years he garnered a reputation as an "environmentalist, utopian visionary and a sometimes stubborn gadfly," wrote The New York Times.

In 1975, Purple (whose real name was David Wilkie) embarked on what The Times described as his most ambitious project: the "Garden of Eden," a 15,000-square-foot garden on Forsyth Street.

After a battle to save it, the city bulldozed the Lower East Side "paradise" in 1986.

Following the loss of his garden, in 1999 Mr. Purple also lost his home.

Purple later moved into a room in the Williamsburg office of Time's Up, where he helped with "light tasks" and spoke with younger activists about the environment, said Time's Up director Bill Di Paola in an interview with The Times.

"We all knew and loved Adam. His commitment to a sustainable lifestyle was unrelenting and all-encompassing," wrote the environmental organization in a statement released Tuesday.

Truly living his values, the itinerant environmentalist stopped riding in cars sometime in the 70s, instead preferring to ride a bicycle, wrote the Times.

And it was a bike on which Purple made his final ride: The Villager reports that the 84-year-old collapsed while riding a bicycle on the Williamsburg Bridge and died.