BY JON CRONIN
The once exiled Ridgewood Community Garden has narrowed their sights on two locations in the area and will be able to make a public formal announcement in the coming weeks.
Last year, the community garden was evicted by the MTA from a lot below the M Train at 760 Woodward Avenue. At the time the lot’s neighbors considered it an eyesore filled with garbage and rats. These green thumb activists took it upon themselves to clean it up and create a place for the community to grow vegetables, herbs, flowers and maybe even learn a bit.
However the MTA was not as enthused about the project, which was favorably covered on local network television and media outlets.
The project, which started in April 2015 was asked to vacate the premises by Aug. 3, 2015. Last year Kevin Ortiz, an MTA spokesperson stated, “Setting up a garden underneath our structure would hamper us from getting to our structure in the case of an emergency. End of story.”
Matt Peterson, a member of the group, said they had been meeting monthly and now weekly because they have sites in mind.
Peterson said once they make the site public they will stop by and survey and clean it up a bit. Then raise beds and physically prepare the site for it to be a garden. He said they have a slate of crops in mind that would grow in the autumn.
This year the volunteers have reached out to their neighbors through Community Board 5 meetings and looked at several properties through Ridgewood.
“It’s a long bureaucratic process,” said Peterson. “There are very few public vacant spaces. The few lots that are there require a long bureaucratic process.” Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan’s (D-Sunnyside) staff has also been aiding them in securing locations.
In the meantime, the Ridgewood Community Garden has been working with Green Thumb, a part of the NYC Parks Department that aids local community gardens by holding workshops and teaching community organization skills, as well as advanced gardening skills.
He said this past spring they started again to reform the community garden idea as more of a group project that will serve the neighborhood, “It’s more of a bigger working group.”
They hold regular public meetings at the Woodbine Community Center at 1882 Woodbine Ave., adjacent to the MTA lot they were kicked out of.
The group has also been volunteering at the Van Ende Onderdonk House in Ridgewood, home of the Ridgewood Historical Society. Peterson noted that they have a lot of land and not many volunteers and added, “It was good for us as group.” He said they hadn’t gotten the chance to do much gardening together this year.
“It gave people experience with gardening, identifying weeds and plants. People were eager to garden. It was good for the group to have some experience to physically garden.”
Reach Editor Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin.