City to build ‘teaching garden’ on fallow lot

City to build ‘teaching garden’ on fallow lot
Community News Group / Julianne Cuba

The seeds are sown!

The city plans to transform an empty Department of Education-owned plot on E. 71st Street into a “teaching garden” for students. Locals have been nettling the city for two years to turn the eyesore near Avenue N into a place for kids to nurture their green thumbs, but officials didn’t have the green to build anything. Now the local councilman has agreed to fund the project, and Bergen Beachers are happy the land will bear fruit for the public — instead of being sold to private developers, one area resident said.

“I think [the garden] would be a nice idea. I’m always afraid they are going to put a new medical building up here or something and it would spoil everything. It’s a nice piece of land,” said Kathleen Kocher. “I think it’s important, because a lot of these kids don’t have gardens.”

The green space will take some time to grow, but it will be worth it, according to Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Bergen Beach), who is shovelling in $250,000 to transform the trash-filled tract into a fenced-in teaching area.

“This is a long-term project — it’s going to take a couple of years to see it completed, but we’re well on the way to having a great educational project that will be devoted to the development of skills for life science and biology, and this will be a gem for the community,” he said.

The city is currently removing garbage and weeds — and then it must test the soil to see what can grow there. The nearby Roy Mann Junior High School on E. 68th Street will maintain the garden — and possibly a greenhouse— and all District 22 students will have access to the site, according to Maisel. The Parks Department is also gussying up the PS 312 playground next door to the lot.

Students can already learn about flora at the education department’s Environmental Study Center on Avenue T, but the new garden will be a great addition to the neighborhood, said PS 312 parent coordinator member Carol Pino.

“We think it’s great,” she said. “The environmental center next door is pretty much used citywide, but this is just another great opportunity to have hands-on science lessons, so students can see plants go in and see the stages of everything. That seems to be the new way of learning — it’s more hands on. And it also get’s rid of an eyesore of a lot. It’s really ugly, so it’ll be nice to have it turned into something not only nice, but also useful.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.