USA’s Largest Network of Community Gardens (NYC!) Deeded to Local Organizations
Thirty-Two Manhattan and Bronx Community Gardens Turned Over to Local Land Trusts
By Kristie Deptula
TK\PR Public Relations
June 28, 2011
This week, The Trust for Public Land, conveyed the first 32 of 69 New York City Community Gardens to the newly established Manhattan and Bronx Land Trusts. The 69 gardens make up the largest network of Community Gardens in the country. After initially saving these 69 parcels of land from destruction, which make up a total of eight acres with a current value of $7 million, from the City of New York 12 years ago, The Trust for Public Land has worked with community members and organizations to save and preserve the crucial green oasis. The remaining 37 gardens will most likely be conveyed to the Brooklyn-Queens Land Trust this fall.
One of the most intriguing of the 69 Trust for Public Land’s Community Gardens is Carver Garden (pictures attached), located just 100 yards from the entrance to the bustling Triborough Bridge in East Harlem on 124th Street between Second and Third Avenues. Rising from what was once the epicenter of the crack epidemic, Carver Garden has weathered many dramatic challenges, including near demolition and a massive infestation of rats less than two years ago, but today is a real gathering place for the diverse members and organizations in the community.
Carver Garden epitomizes the melting pot which makes up East Harlem. Numerous community groups and individuals all use Carver Garden – some to actually grow food (as a 4×4 planting yields 150 pounds of produce a year), as a green meeting place, or as a form of therapy. Groups such as Pathways to Housing located half a block away, which transitions homeless people into permanent housing, now has a permanent planting bed and grows fruits and vegetables and actually started a healthy eating class due to their access to the garden. Pathways leaders have noted the transformation that occurs when participants can witness the growth of their own food and have the ability to eat healthier. Yolanda Govara, a Guatemalan immigrant who joined the garden last year, was inspired to establish United, Yes We Can (http://unidossisepuede.org/) and will work with ten local families this growing season, giving them the ability to grow produce native to their culture. Nourishing NYC (http://www.nourishingnyc.org/) a program which gives out free produce throughout the city, also has its own planting bed in the garden.
There are many individual gardeners with incredible stories. Gilbert, one of the garden’s oldest members, was one of the first to clear and establish the garden with his mother and neighbors in the early 1970s. Then called “El Jardín de Cuatro Mujeres (The Garden for Four Women),” it was used the community as a gathering place for gospel groups and artists. Gilbert has incredible photographs that illustrate these early days of Carver Garden.
There is also James, a true Southern gentleman from Richmond, Virginia who has worked in the garden everyday at 8am for the past thirty years. James, who started gardening because he, “needed his corn” and other southern staples not readily found in the neighborhood, has seen the garden through ugly times when a rat epidemic due to neighboring construction sites plagued the garden and threatened its existence.
Rows of planting beds teeming with cantaloupes, beans, tomatoes and eggplants. A veritable melting pot of people gathering in the shade of a gazebo. A mother giving her daughter the first taste of a pimiento, native to her Spanish culture but not found at the local grocer. Carver Garden really illustrates how a community garden can enhance a community. Just as East Harlem community has waxed and waned over the past few decades, so has Carver Garden and is now thriving.
Carver Garden provides its members a sense of pride, ownership and a true connection to the East Harlem community they call home.
Andy Stone, The Trust for Public Land,
Erica Packard, Bronx and Manhattan Land Trusts,