Less than a decade ago, the community garden had been renamed in honor of its founder, a neighborhood urban farming enthusiast. Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez spoke at the garden, as had Assemblywoman Annette Robinson. But the lasting legacy of the since-shuttered Avellar G. Hansley Secret Garden has emerged: a new 20-story mixed-use condominium will take the garden’s place on 1333 Broadway. 

The details come from paperwork that real estate developer Erik Ekstein filed with the New York Department of Buildings last month. According to reporting from the Brooklyn Paper, Ekstein bought the property with the garden on it for $16.7 million from another property developer that had bought the space in 2018 for $8.75 million. 

A design sketch of the building soon to tower over Broadway (New York Department of Buildings)

The $8.75 million had gone to the hardware store next door, which had informally lent the space to the garden since 1981 but, according to a story in DNAInfo, the community garden had more recently fallen “into neglect.” The owner of the hardware store used the money to buy out his siblings and the garden was bulldozed. The DNAInfo report, one of the few to document the garden’s existence since we had reported on the event honoring the late Avellar Hansley, claimed that the garden had left the neighborhood unmourned, razed to “no public protest, no press conference or rally, or no attempt to change the garden’s fate.” But on Facebook, the page of an urban farm group called EcoStation NY had called the garden “a symbol of hope and rebirth” that the group had attempted to take over but had failed to rally local support.

In the early 1980s, the garden had attracted the attention of the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Anna Quindlen, who wrote of the garden: “The lot that is now the garden was full of old bathtubs, refrigerators, stoves and rats before it was cleared. But now the garden has butterflies and dragonflies and a scarecrow in a faded corduroy coat to scare away the lone squirrel. There will soon be flowers, and an area in which people can simply sit and relax.”

The dedication of the Avellar G. Hansley Secret Garden in 2014 (Daryl-Ann Saunders for Bushwick Daily)

Those scattered flowers had been among the few slices of greenspace to dot North Brooklyn’s grey, granite metropolis, and now it appears fated to become like so much of Bushwick’s Broadway: multi-use and towering. The building’s height itself reflects another failure of local politics: the final collapse of the long-debated Bushwick Community Plan. It had been without very much fanfare last year that a minor de Blasio administration official announced that the city was, in fact, not interested in taking a look at the plan, a lengthy piece of work that had been the subject of four year of negotiations and abundant public hearings and, among other things, had proposed a height limit of 11 stories under the Broadway transit corridor.


Top image: New York Department of Buildings.

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