Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Our Neighborhood Place...?


This is a community garden on our block in Harlem. It has been padlocked since we moved here.

I don't know.

It's tempting.

But taking this on may take more gees (Afrikaans for spirit - the 'g' is more a hiss than guttural) than I am willing to muster. If we were in residence longer, maybe. I imagine there is a complicated back story, and that unpicking it and dealing with all the loose ends and sewing it together again would take powers of diplomacy envied by the UN.

I considered some guerilla gardening. I had visions of sneaking beautiful purple runner beans into the soil so that they can snake up the wrought iron fence (expensive! - someone campaigned for that; then what happened?). But there is chicken wire at its base - to keep out cats, I am guessing. So my hands can't reach. Wire cutters? Serious gloves?


But there it is. A sad sight, and provocative to one who gardens. There are even some raised beds. That cherry tree will bloom in about six weeks. Meantime, garbage accumulates.

Still. Maybe I'll make a phone call or two, and ask around. I'm curious.

29 comments:

  1. It looks very tempting and a flowering Cherry. A few climbing things would make it lovely.

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  2. Go for it! Give everything - expect nothing.

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  3. Oh, what an exciting and tempting possibility, although I can easily see why you wisely hesitate. But imagine the book there could be in the transformation . . . to say nothing of the transformation it would bring to the neighbourhood!

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  4. Do it! That's an urban garden garden waiting to happen.

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  5. I'm thinking the person who championed it had a change of address or life direction. The presence of the plastic play equipment gives me pause as to the stated original purpose. I also don't see anything dealing with water. It is not too big of a place, but it might be a famous Gorgon Knot...

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  6. I'm with Katie - Do it! This could be such a lovely space and there must be others in the neighborhood who would be willing to help.

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  7. Marie, look at what you have accomplished in the past with getting organizations together to clean up the parks etc. Getting Our Neighborhood Place cleaned up and reopened will be a piece of cake for you. Go get 'em!!!

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  8. OMG you should do it !! This is a blank canvas waiting to be painted !!

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  9. I'm a long term P-patch gardener in Seattle and find the community spirit in gardening with neighbors to be inspirational. Just a cleanup of that space would be rewarding.

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  10. Marie - a little OASIS digging revealed that this vacant lot is owned by Abyssinian Development Corporation...and a quick google search of said developer shows they are in very hot financial water (and are likely insolvent? It's unclear at this point). I'm not sure if it becomes city-owned land if the original owner goes bust, or if gets sold to the next interested private buyer. Unfortunately the only way to get a new GreenThumb site in the city is to convert a city-owned vacant lot to a garden. Interesting to see a Parks Department trash can AND a fairly new looking piece of playground equipment in there, though. It also looks like at some point in the recent past WE ACT for Environmental Justice might have been involved in the stewardship of the space...could be worth checking with them about the history and future plans (if any) for the site. Good luck! It looks like a wonderful blank slate as of now.

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  11. Do check! If it is very nearly a city responsibility, then perhaps they are open to direction and advice - before someone wastes its potential. (Easy for me to say; I'm not sure what all that entails but can imagine that miles of red tape and frustration might be it if one doesn't slip in quickly as plans are being made. And might be, anyhow.) Very much a chance worth taking, though. That's a fair patch of urban potential that could be such a benefit to you area.

    Mary

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  12. I'd definitely ask around! Imagine the possibilities there. Even a good clean-up would be nice.

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  13. Go for it...it very well may be the reason you are the in Harlem.
    blessings, jill

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  14. Love the way they have carefully positioned the trash barrels conveniently so that the trash can blow right in ...

    Does Bette Midler work with the city to get community gardens up and working? Perhaps a letter to her ...

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    1. Yes, Ms. Midler has her own foundation - the New York Restoration Project.

      Thing is, this was clearly designated a community garden. The fence and sign are proof of that. And that would not have happened without a long campaign by the community. That takes time. Then something happened. What that something was (my first thought was crime, or equipment safety concerns), will determine the outcome. I'm nosing around. The neighbors will know. And I think I can hear Vince groaning from here.

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  15. I hope some magic happens there.

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  16. I can see that beautiful little space all planted up in my mind. Spring and summer would be beautiful there and the more places that are taken care of and planted in New York the better, I say. But then again, I know it will take a lot of work. I wish I lived in your city. I would absolutely love to help make this space a little wonderland. If you decided to do it Marie, I would love to see posts on how it is coming along and the finished project. Once a place like this gets started, it's a whole new world to explore, share and talk about. Look forward to hearing more about your journey to find out what is going on with this and why it was abandoned.

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  17. Looks a lot like my backyard at the moment. It's been a horrid winter, much too cold to go out and do anything other than hammer out another frozen log from the woodpile. I think this requires a phone call or two--I'm sure there's a committee somewhere. The equipment, fencing and signage are all in good shape--even the dustbins are new. Just needs a couple of days of 60° to get the neighborhood out to help clean it up. I'm sure they'd love your input and ideas.

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  18. I've been told that the "garden'' suffers sporadic clean ups, and that the Abyssinian church seems to be in charge.

    Next stop. Abyssinia.

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  19. This place has a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Our-Neighborhood-Place-playlot/217364591615091?ref=ts, although it does not appear to have been active since August 2012. Their last advertised meeting was held at Abyssinian Development office, 4 West 125th Street, 3rd Fl. New York, NY 10027, 3rd Floor. This may be a place to start. Also, Rella's Spielhaus, located "on 5th Avenue near 125th" noted on 7 August 2012 that it "will receive keys for private access to "Our Neighborhood Place", a playground and community garden on our very block" and said: "THANK YOU, ABESSYNIAN DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION FOR THIS GIFT."
    The Abyssinian Development Corporation now seems to be located at 2070 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd, tel. 212-368-4471 and 646-442-6599. Meanwhile, Rella's is run by Barbara Rellstab at 917 589-6767.
    One or both of these seem like good places to start and, in fact, since you are new in the neighbourhood, probably contacting as many people as you can find who've had any involvement is a good idea.
    Also, once the weather is warm enough for beans, you could make seed bombs loaded with scarlet runner beans (and other stuff) and just pitch them through the fence! See: http://www.urbanfarmonline.com/urban-farm-videos/urban-farming-activities/guerrilla-gardening-seed-bombs.aspx

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    1. Thank you! Wow - you guys are amazing.

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    2. You are amazing. You find the time to keep this blog.
      we just give feedback.

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    3. Seed bombs!! I love it.

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  20. I think it's a wonderful idea! Maybe it is why you are where you are....you could make it so beautiful. Seed bombs do work I've done a little guerrillla gardening on the sly :-)

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  21. As a fellow Scorpio, you MUST push on.

    Just Do It.

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    1. ...ha. Well, maybe. But I'm choosing my battles a little more carefully. I like the ones I can win. But we'll see.

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  22. The hopeful season is SPRING. Best of luck with this adventure that seems to be unfolding....

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  23. If this is the same (or a descendant of the) Abyssinian group that floated a plan to landfill the park across from me -- oh no you don't, it's a federally designated wetlands I declaimed because my mother knew that and I rustled up and brandished federal papers to prove it -- watch your back. The goal seems to be pretend to do community improvement "for the children" while sucking up all the graft possible. I hope I'm wrong, but my back went up at the name . . .

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