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Community Gardens in NYC! Spring Special Edition!

A trip to the famers market this March weekend was a wonderful reminder that spring is on its way.  The first potted flowers and herbs of the season were for sale and it seemed as though everyone was picking up a little something to bring home.  You can feel the energy shift this time of year, at the end of winter, just on the cusp of spring.  People’s moods are lifting; the extra hours of daylight make you feel like you can finally accomplish all those things you were too tired or cold to deal with during the winter.  It’s all the more exciting because the weather is getting warmer, things are starting to sprout from the ground and the anticipation of walking down a green, leafy block is almost too much to bear.

Community gardens have always been a part of New York City’s fabric; people coming together to tend a small plot of land within the depths of the city.  I have the good fortune of living with a landlord who has dedicated the last 20 years of her life to creating an oasis unlike any other I have seen, behind her Prospect Heights home.  However, not everyone is lucky enough to own their own space (or rent from incredibly generous people who let you reap the rewards of their hard work).  In the wake of the push for new developments across the city, many communities have found it necessary to fight tooth and nail for their beloved gardens.  DNAinfo.comrecently reported that members of the Lower East Side Children’s Magical Garden, established in 1983, filed a lawsuit to be granted ownership of their garden which had been locked by former owner and developer Serge Hoyda.  The group is also reportedly suing 157 LLC, the current owners who bought the space in January and are looking to put up a six-story building on the site.   Unfortunately, with space at such a premium, it’s the “unused” piece of land that becomes dollar signs in the eyes of many.

The good news is that in recent years the city has seen an increase in green spaces popping up in places both expected and not.  Many public schools throughout the five boroughs have installed gardens and are teaching students the joys of growing their own food.  Rooftop farming has become a part of the natural order of things; so much so that the new Whole Foods in Brooklyn boasts its own rooftop farm, and restaurants such as ABC Kitchen and Robertas have also created rooftop gardens where they grow the produce used in their dishes.  In some ways we are in the midst of a renaissance when it comes to urban green spaces.  People are much more aware of and knowledgeable about where their food comes from, how it was grown, and even what happens to the scraps they discard.  Composting, whether at home with worms, or at the greenmarkets around the city, has become part of many people’s routine.  In fact the city’s new Sanitation Commissioner, Kathryn Garcia is developing a plan that would have every New York City resident composting within five years.

In the midst of all this promise and excitement it is important to take a step back and think about how we got here.  The New York Horticultural Society, founded in 1900, has been bringing people and plants together for over 100 years.  When the Society first started the main activities were monthly meetings, formal lectures and seasonal flower shows.  Over the years they have grown and evolved into an organization that not only hosts wonderful events, but has also become intertwined with the New York community as a whole. Programs such as Apple Seed, work with public school children to give them a love and understanding of nature and nutrition at a young age; the GreenHouse program benefits the inmates of Rikers Island using horticultural training and therapy; and Green City helps in the creation of green spaces and gardens in low income communities.

It’s hard to imagine what the city would look like without the benefit of the Hort, as it is commonly known, as the visionary.  The small community gardens we walk by and perhaps work in every day, rooftop spaces converted into gardens and farms, the awareness of and desire to participate in our urban landscape; all of these are a result of something that was created over 100 years ago when the city looked markedly different.

Green Drinks is so excited to bring you next month’s event, hosted by the New York Horticultural Society.  We hope that this will be an opportunity for everyone to get to meet the wonderful people who bring so much beauty and joy to the city.

A trip to the famers market this March weekend was a wonderful reminder that spring is on its way.  The first potted flowers and herbs of the season were for sale and it seemed as though everyone was picking up a little something to bring home.  You can feel the energy shift this time of year, at the end of winter, just on the cusp of spring.  People’s moods are lifting; the extra hours of daylight make you feel like you can finally accomplish all those things you were too tired or cold to deal with during the winter.  It’s all the more exciting because the weather is getting warmer, things are starting to sprout from the ground and the anticipation of walking down a green, leafy block is almost too much to bear.

Community gardens have always been a part of New York City’s fabric; people coming together to tend a small plot of land within the depths of the city.  I have the good fortune of living with a landlord who has dedicated the last 20 years of her life to creating an oasis unlike any other I have seen, behind her Prospect Heights home.  However, not everyone is lucky enough to own their own space (or rent from incredibly generous people who let you reap the rewards of their hard work).  In the wake of the push for new developments across the city, many communities have found it necessary to fight tooth and nail for their beloved gardens.  DNAinfo.comrecently reported that members of the Lower East Side Children’s Magical Garden, established in 1983, filed a lawsuit to be granted ownership of their garden which had been locked by former owner and developer Serge Hoyda.  The group is also reportedly suing 157 LLC, the current owners who bought the space in January and are looking to put up a six-story building on the site.   Unfortunately, with space at such a premium, it’s the “unused” piece of land that becomes dollar signs in the eyes of many.

The good news is that in recent years the city has seen an increase in green spaces popping up in places both expected and not.  Many public schools throughout the five boroughs have installed gardens and are teaching students the joys of growing their own food.  Rooftop farming has become a part of the natural order of things; so much so that the new Whole Foods in Brooklyn boasts its own rooftop farm, and restaurants such as ABC Kitchen and Robertas have also created rooftop gardens where they grow the produce used in their dishes.  In some ways we are in the midst of a renaissance when it comes to urban green spaces.  People are much more aware of and knowledgeable about where their food comes from, how it was grown, and even what happens to the scraps they discard.  Composting, whether at home with worms, or at the greenmarkets around the city, has become part of many people’s routine.  In fact the city’s new Sanitation Commissioner, Kathryn Garcia is developing a plan that would have every New York City resident composting within five years.

In the midst of all this promise and excitement it is important to take a step back and think about how we got here.  The New York Horticultural Society, founded in 1900, has been bringing people and plants together for over 100 years.  When the Society first started the main activities were monthly meetings, formal lectures and seasonal flower shows.  Over the years they have grown and evolved into an organization that not only hosts wonderful events, but has also become intertwined with the New York community as a whole. Programs such as Apple Seed, work with public school children to give them a love and understanding of nature and nutrition at a young age; the GreenHouse program benefits the inmates of Rikers Island using horticultural training and therapy; and Green City helps in the creation of green spaces and gardens in low income communities.

It’s hard to imagine what the city would look like without the benefit of the Hort, as it is commonly known, as the visionary.  The small community gardens we walk by and perhaps work in every day, rooftop spaces converted into gardens and farms, the awareness of and desire to participate in our urban landscape; all of these are a result of something that was created over 100 years ago when the city looked markedly different.

Green Drinks is so excited to bring you next month’s event, hosted by the New York Horticultural Society.  We hope that this will be an opportunity for everyone to get to meet the wonderful people who bring so much beauty and joy to the city.

By Victoria Kapastin

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