Noble rot: Bushwick community garden combines compost piles with wild flowers

Noble rot: Bushwick community garden combines compost piles with wild flowers
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

It’s the prettiest dump in town!

A scrappy Bushwick composting service has turned a long-abandoned Myrtle Avenue lot into a community garden where residents can dispose of their food waste amidst a field of wild flowers — an experience its founder hopes will change the way people relate to their leftovers.

“We’re trying to show an example in this neighborhood of more robust composting operation to reframe peoples’ relationships to waste,” said Sandy Nurse of composting group BK Rot, which created the Know Waste Lands garden between Cedar Street and DeKalb Avenue this summer.

Nurse first founded BK Rot in 2013 as a composting pick-up service and employment scheme for neighborhood kids — for a small fee, eco-conscious locals can leave their organic waste in a bag on their doorstep once a week and youngsters on bikes pick it up and peddle it to a scrap heap.

Without a plot of land to call their own, the transient scrappers rented out corners of neighborhood properties to store their worm food — until Nurse spotted the unused stretch of city-owned land under the rattling rails of the M train.

The group first eyed the plot as a permanent home for its compost piles, but soon realized it could pull double-duty as a community garden, and started gathering residents’ support to turn the derelict lot into a green space in the winter of 2013.

It took years of paperwork and bureaucratic hurdles, but Nurse said it was all worth it when the group finally signed a four-year deal with the city to maintain the land last summer.

“It feels really good to know that even though it’s a really long, complicated process, there are instances where a community can come together and decide how we want to use the land we collectively own,” she said.

The land, which was once filled with trash and abandoned cars and had more rubble than fertile soil, is now blooming with sunflowers, mushrooms, and fruit trees.

And the garden has already become a local hub where long-time residents and neighborhood newcomers gather to tend flowers, compost, and bond over their green thumbs and old banana peels, according to one new fan.

“We share the city space, but it’s so easy to go and hide in the cement and not see anybody unless there is a common reason,” said Naya Friel, who attended the garden’s first open house party last weekend. “Where else is a 20-year-old going to share the same space with the Dominican man who has been living here for 20 years and has family all around?”

Know Waste Lands (1278 Myrtle Ave. between Cedar Street and DeKalb Avenue in Bushwick, www.facebook.com/knowasteland). Drop your compost off Saturdays 10 am–1 pm, and Sundays 1–4 pm.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobb[email protected]local.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.
Garden party: Naya Friel and Iyeshima Harris enjoyed the new community space with other locals at the Know Waste Lands open house on Oct. 10.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini