Sometimes a community garden just needs a little extra TLC, and this is one of those times for the Bryant Hill Community Garden, in the Bronx. One of only two community gardens in the South Bronx, and an easy 5 minute walk away for half of all Hunts Point residents – whose neighborhood is a food desert with asthma-triggering air quality – it’s desperately needed, and brimming with potential. Unfortunately, its vegetation and stone pathways, battered by years of rainstorms, are also brimming with debris.
It takes a village to raise an urban garden, and Chenchita’s Community Garden up in Harlem is no exception. Season after season, they partner up with not only dozens of local residents, but also a network of awesome local organizations, including Five Borough Farm, Urban Innovations and the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, Harlem Grown, Total Equity Now, the Oberia Dempsey Center, the New York Public Library, bookBgone, Word Up! Community Book Shop, and Def Poetry Jam.
So many good citizens are pitching in to help make the garden a gorgeous, restorative community center and outdoor classroom. But this weekend, the garden’s organizers just want everyone to come out, kick back, get a little sunshine, celebrate, and get excited for the harvests soon to come.
This Saturday, come one and come all to Madison Ave and East 112th street, 11am to 4pm, for a big old celebration. Expect a poetry reading from Urban Innovations artists, some mural-painting, the installation of a brand new Little Free Library (lumber donated by the DOT, books donated by the NYPL), and lots of merrymaking.
What is there to celebrate? Well, last year was a green year for the garden in the other sense of the word, too. We’re talking about moolah. Organizers earned a Citizen’s Committee grant, as part of the Love Your Block initiative, to beautify the garden. And we at ioby are proud to have been a part of the picture, too; Chenchita’s organizers raised money via ioby for a new shed/classroom (the old one had warped and broken down over the winter), easily blowing past their goal of $780 to $962 given. The new shed is in the works; check it out this Saturday.
“The idea is to connect people to the garden and have a celebration for getting the grants, for getting all this funding, for all the projects that we’re going to bring back. It’s springtime, it’s Earth Day,” says Stephanie Wong-You, one of the garden’s community organizers, and Coordinator of Community support at Job Path.
One of the things Wong-You loves most about Chenchita’s is the openness it inspires. Some community gardens, she says, can seem private, or inaccessible. Not this one. “The main organizers there, Angela and Pamela,” says Wong-You, “they’re incredibly dedicated and incredibly welcoming. Anybody passing through is welcome to join or to volunteer or try some mulberries in the summertime. Every time I visit there are always people passing by and asking where Angela is.”
And since locals really feel a part of the garden, they contribute. “A lot of the local stores will donate cardboard boxes and vegetable scraps for the compost,” explains Wong-You. “People will tie things to the fence, or just stop by when the see Angela and drop off compost. Everyone who passes by waves to whoever’s in the garden.”
So grab your compost scraps and come on out this Saturday. Looks to be 64 degrees and sunny!