On a sloped lot in Ridgewood with a view of the Manhattan skyline, the initial seeds for something big have been planted. The nonprofit GrowNYC will build a new community garden at the vacant lot on the corner of Willoughby and Onderdonk Avenues – work is set to begin this spring and continue through the remainder of 2022.
NYC Parks GreenThumb, a division of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, will provide financing and supplies to the yet-unnamed garden near the Ridgewood-Bushwick border. Ultimately, members of the community garden will manage and maintain the space – planting is expected to take place by the growing season of 2023
At an in-person visioning session earlier this month, around 25 community members had convened to give input on the garden’s general design and to brainstorm features they wanted to see, like water traps, composting areas, a performance stage with seating, a greenhouse, a solar-powered community fridge, and even space for potential beekeeping.
“Some of the specifics will likely be worked out during construction, just because it’s a challenging site with a pretty large hill,” said Spencer Harbo, a project manager with GrowNYC’s Green Space Program. “It’s also worth noting that community gardens are flexible spaces, and the design has the potential to change between seasons to meet the needs of the community as determined by the garden membership.”
For those gathered, the garden’s location on a slope is both a challenge and an opportunity.
“We have a dynamic and interesting site here,” says Lars Chellberg, an infrastructure engineer with GrowNYC. “We’ve been involved with a couple of different sites on slopes where we’ve integrated terraced beds or a small water feature at the top of the slope…most of the plots we’re usually working with are dead flat, so this is kind of cool.”
Chellberg, who has been involved with GrowNYC since 1998, appeared enthusiastic about the potential for rainwater harvesting.
“My understanding is that the person that owns the neighboring building is interested in participating and having a bed in the garden, so we’ll have a discussion with them about possibly using their downspout to capture rainwater because it’s perfectly positioned. A roof like that is pretty sizable and yields a good amount of water, from smaller stuff up to a 1,000 gallon tank,” Chellberg said.
Enthusiasm for the new project was apparent among locals too.
“I love the rain barrels and the fact that we can capture water from the adjacent roof,” said Hila Perry, who lives in the area and also performs as the eco-rapper Hila the Killa. “I’m excited for another green space to gather in and hang out, and the food we’ll be growing brings a great value to everybody.”
The plot’s location puts it in the nexus of the larger Grover Cleveland Athletic Field, which is run by the city’s Department of Education and not the Parks Department. Accordingly, the planning for the garden has been years in the making, according to Mike Rezny, an assistant director at GrowNYC who recalled the land’s history as a superfund site.
“There was an independent environmental settlement around 15 years ago, where the state attorney general sued companies that were polluting in the Newtown Creek and this garden is located within the catchment area for projects that would benefit from that lawsuit,” Rezny said. “There were several years of paperwork with the city in order to get all the agreements ironed out…there have been lots of moving pieces and different government partners getting together to have the wherewithal to build the garden.”
For questions about the plans for the park, contact [email protected].
All photos taken by Duncan Ballantine for Bushwick Daily.
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