Gov. dedicates millions to grow boro’s community gardens

Gov. dedicates millions to grow boro’s community gardens
Photo by Paul Martinka

These gardens are getting even more green.

The governor is showering 22 Kings County community gardens with $3.1 million in state capitol funding as part of a billion-dollar-effort to improve the quality of life for residents in some of the borough’s lower-income neighborhoods.

“Community gardens provide critical opportunities for healthier lifestyles, and these vital improvements are going to connect residents to the outdoors and gathering spaces, and create access to the immeasurable benefits of open space,” Gov. Cuomo said during a visit to Crown Heights’s Bergen Street Community Garden on July 19.

A chunk of Cuomo’s cash will go towards installing on-site water sources at all 22 volunteer-tended gardens, which will connect the growing patches to city pipes — a huge relief, according to one urban farmer, who said gardeners often rely on improvised rainwater-collection systems to sate thirsty plants, or simply lug buckets of water from their own homes to quench dry dirt.

“Some people, because they live nearby, actually bring water to the garden,” said Jason Osher, a director at the environmentally focused New York Restoration Project, which manages 52 community gardens citywide. “It’s going to be a big benefit to have water readily available.”

And the governor set aside the rest of the funds for improvements such as new composting systems, benches, paving, fencing, and solar equipment at eight of the nearly two-dozen plots — including Clinton Hill’s Greene Acres Community Garden; Bushwick’s Aberdeen Street and Decatur community gardens; East New York’s Williams Avenue Community Garden; Brownsville’s McLeod Community Garden; and the Bedford-Stuyvesant, Target, and Hull Street community gardens in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Osher, whose organization oversees the Williams Avenue garden, said that Restoration Project leaders will host meetings in the coming months where locals can weigh in on how the money is spent.

“We’ll engage them as closely as possible to make sure their needs are met,” he said.

Cuomo’s multi-million-dollar investment in the gardens is part of his larger $1.4-billion “Vital Brooklyn” wellness initiative, which calls for building thousands of below-market-rate residences and dozens of outpatient-care medical centers over the next decade in neighborhoods including Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Bushwick, Canarsie, Crown Heights, Cypress Hills, East Flatbush, East New York, Prospect Heights, and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, as well as transforming 407 acres of formerly toxic ground along Jamaica Bay into the city’s largest state park.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Let it grow: Gov. Cuomo announced $3.1 million in funding for Kings County community gardens during a visit to Crown Heights’s Bergen Street Community Garden on July 19.
Photo by Paul Martinka