On July 19, 2018, the state of New York announced a $3.1 million investment to renovate and transform eight community gardens in Brooklyn, and deliver a much-needed direct water connection to 14 others. In partnership with New York Restoration Project (NYRP) and Brooklyn Queens Land Trust all improvements to the 22 community gardens will be complete by the fall of 2019.
“The State is taking aggressive action to reverse the chronic social, economic, and health disparities in Central Brooklyn so we can improve the lives of the New Yorkers who live in communities that have been neglected for far too long,” New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said. “Community gardens provide critical opportunities for healthier lifestyles, and these vital improvements made in 22 locations are going to connect residents to the outdoors and gathering spaces, and create access to the immeasurable benefits of open space.”
This is the most recent step in the $1.4 billion Vital Brooklyn Initiative to revitalize the Central Brooklyn region with a new model of community development and wellness to address chronic disparities, such as systemic violence, affordable housing, lack of access to open space and entrenched poverty in high-need communities.
New York Restoration Project Executive Director Deborah Marton said, “NYRP is so grateful to Governor Cuomo, his staff, and our legislators for their vision and leadership. Vital Brooklyn will be a huge catalyst for our work to support community vitality, wellbeing, and safety and ensure that our spaces continue to serve the growing needs of so many Brooklynites far into the future. ”
As reported here in REVITALIZATION, in April of this year, Governor Cuomo launched phase two of Vital Brooklyn and announced five RFPs to construct more than 2,000 affordable homes and advance the initiative’s $563 million commitment to build 3,000 units of affordable housing in Central Brooklyn.
All 22 community gardens will receive an essential on-site water source that will beautify and improve the vibrancy of the gardens. In addition to the direct water connection eight community gardens will also each receive several additional upgrades that may include shade structures, new raised beds, paving, fencing and/or sidewalk, solar installation and upgraded compost system and comfort facilities. The NYRP will engage the garden communities through two community design meetings for each site. These eight community gardens are:
- Aberdeen St Community Garden / 91 Aberdeen Street / $900,000
- Williams Ave Community Garden / 88 Williams Avenue / $500,000
- Hull St Community Garden / 145 Hull Street / $500,000
- Decatur Community Garden / 1052 Decatur Street / $100,000
- McLeod’s Community Garden, 130 Liberty Avenue / $100,000
- Bedford-Stuyvesant Community Garden / 95 Malcolm X Boulevard / $100,000
- Greene Acres Community Garden, 322 Franklin Avenue / $100,000
- Target Community Garden / 931 Bedford Avenue / $100,000
DASNY President & CEO Dr. Gerrard P. Bushell said, “DASNY is thrilled to play a part in bringing much-needed green space to the Central Brooklyn community. By administering grant funding for these projects, we help transform underutilized spaces into gardens, building healthy communities and promoting economic opportunity.”
The 14 additional Central Brooklyn community gardens that will receive direct water connections at a cost of $50,000 each are:
- Heckscher Foundation Children’s Garden / 134 Scholes Street
- Madison St. Community Garden / 974 Madison Street
- Essex St. Community Garden / 3030 Fulton Street
- Concerned Citizens of Grove St / 72 Grove Street
- St. Johns Place Renaissance Garden / 1642 St. John’s Place
- Garden of Hope / 392 Hancock Street
- 1100 Block Bergen St. Block Association Garden / 1107 Bergen Street
- Heaven’s Gate Garden / 169-171 Hart Street
- Patchen Ave Garden / 49 Patchen Avenue
- Jane Bailey Community Garden / 327 Greene Avenue
- United Herkimer Garden Club / 97 Herkimer Street
- Westbrook Memorial Garden / 1233 Pacific Street
- Hendrix St. Community Garden / 532 Hendrix Street
- Sheffield Garden / 673 Sheffield Avenue
Currently, Central Brooklyn residents have some of the fewest opportunities for physical fitness in the entire state. In fact, 84 percent of Central Brooklynites have gone without adequate physical activity, which is more than 30 percent higher than the rest of the state. Governor Cuomo’s Vital Brooklyn Initiative is aiming to lower these rates by increasing access to nature and open space and improving and creating more recreational opportunities.
“Access and availability to open space is integral to the health of our communities particularly in urban environments where connections are limited,” said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey.
Earlier this year Governor Cuomo announced $10.6 million to repurpose and renew 8 schoolyards into community playgrounds. In partnership with the Trust for Public Land, 8 asphalt schoolyards are being transformed into dynamic playgrounds and community gathering spaces. To be complete by 2020, the community playgrounds will be designed through a participatory process engaging the students and families associated with each school. Construction of the first playground located at PS 581 on Winthrop Street is underway and scheduled for completion later this year.
Governor Cuomo also announced $1.8 million to renovate 4 recreation centers under Phase 2 of the Vital Brooklyn Initiative. The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York are awarding the grants to fund physical improvements to the following four local recreation centers to better serve their communities: Madison Square Boys and Girls Club Thomas Murphy Clubhouse, North Brooklyn/Twelve Towns YMCA, Bedford Stuyvesant YMCA, and Flatbush YMCA.
Assemblymember Maritza Davila said, “Having served on several Boards and Advisory Committees for several community gardens I can attest to the importance these gardens serve in the revitalization of our communities. I applaud Governor Cuomo and community gardeners across our city for enhancing and caring for these precious spaces that provide us all with a sense of community.”
Assemblymember Tremaine Wright agreed, “I am excited by this effort to put urban gardening within reach of more Brooklyn families, because they improve access to fresh food while encouraging healthy outdoor activity and building connections in the community. I thank Governor Cuomo for making these gardens a part of the strategy to revitalize our Brooklyn neighborhoods.”
Featured photo of Hull Street Community Garden courtesy of GrowNYC.