A Season of Change at Beach 41st Community Gardens: September 2015 Updates
The Summer season at Beach 41st Houses has been abuzz with activity. Resident gardeners have been diligently caring for their individual plots while simultaneously supporting the work of their neighboring gardeners. Presently, almost all of the 32 plots in the garden is claimed and tended by at least one gardener, if not by people collaborating–partners, families, and groups of friends. Over the past two months there have been substantial physical changes to the space and programmatic innovation through collaborative exchange. Yet there is still much more change to come. But, for now we are pleased to share some of the most noteworthy highlights to date.
New Water Installation
One of the biggest challenges to the gardeners in caring for the plant and vegetable life in their gardeners was the need for a consistent water source. Because the old water tap close to the garden entrance was broken, in order to keep their soil beds moist and their plants hydrated, gardeners would have to make multiple trips, hauling buckets back and forth to the nearest tap on the side of the NYCHA apartment buildings. This was a tiresome and arduous task for all.
A design solution was established as part of the Till landscape design plan to build a rainwater catchment system that would be installed close by the gardens. However this phase of the design process was not set to take place until late Fall. The NYCHA team decided that this critical issue needed to be addressed immediately and instead installed a hose system that would bring water direction to each plot. The work was done by digging a trench and running a hose line from the apartment buildings through the lawn and over to the gardens. Now each gardener has access to a tap with a special key to open and close the valve. This example demonstrates the way in which the community organizer, working with the gardeners and the Landscapes of Resilience team, brought to light a crucial infrastructure issue that NYCHA was able to address.
Community Engagement Through Workshop and Collaboration
In collaboration with Till, project Coordinator Renae Reynolds and Carmen Bouyer, a Resident Artist at PioneerWorks (a center focused on research and culture through arts engagement and experimentation, located in Red Hook, Brooklyn NY) designed and facilitated a series of interactive workshops to support the gardeners in creating new artistic design elements within their individual garden plots and throughout the green spaces at B41st. The aim was to provide an opportunity for self-expression and personalization through signs and lighting so gardeners could name their gardens and convey desired messages to residents and visitors of the space. The workshop series was broken down in three sessions dedicated to signs, followed by three sessions dedicated to lighting, with addition sessions to come late fall and next spring.
In addition to the workshops hosted through July and August there have been opportunities to collaborate with other neighboring community organizations. A group of young people from Rockaway Waterfront Alliance (RWA), a youth development organization dedicated to fostering increased environmental stewardship, took the time to lend a hand in garden cleanup. Members from two of RWA’s programs; ShoreCorps and Aqua101; assisted gardeners in weeding their plots as well as supporting the NYCHA grounds staff with garbage clean up throughout the grounds of the property. Students forged connections and expressed excitement about learning that this space existed, as well as a desire to return for future visits.
One young lady, a member of the ShoreCorp internship group, shared that she was also a resident at B41st Houses, yet she had not known about the gardens. She lives in one of the buildings along the front side of the complex and may not have had many occasions to venture into the playground or lawn area on the back side, along which the gardens are located. Perhaps she had seen the gardens prior to their reinvigoration, post Sandy and is only now becoming aware of their improved state. In either case, this is a clear example of the opportunity for community engagement to increase awareness of the garden among nearby residents. There is an opportunity to do so with continued collaboration with Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, and other organizations like RWA, in order to ensure connection and cohesion among the communities of practice in Rockaway as RWA is currently working to develop a new community center, called RISE (Rockaway Institute for a Sustainable Environment) to act as a Hub for environmental programs, workshops, exhibitions and events.
US Forest Service Deputy Chief Mary Wagner Stops by for a visit
In August, the US Forest Service NYC Urban Field Station team hosted the Deputy Chief of the US Forest Service, Mary Wagner, as part of a tour of USFS project sites and partnerships in NYC. She along with members of the New York City Parks Department, NYCHA Gardening and Greening Program, and the Nature Conservancy, viewed the site to learn more about the Landscapes of Resilience project, to gain new perspective on urban forestry and greening initiatives throughout the local landscape of the Rockaway Peninsula. The visitors explored the connections between the varied scales of natural resource management and the role local residents play as stewards as well as the resource these green spaces represent in ensuring social cohesion and social resilience in the wake of disturbance. By listening to the remarks of NYCHA staff members as well as the insights from researchers Erika Svendsen, Lindsay Campbell, and project coordinator Renae Reynolds, we believe Mary Wagner has an increased understanding of the Landscapes of Resilience project both from the research standpoint and in practice. With Mary’s support and leadership at the agency level, our team is excited to continue building upon our successes through Landscapes of Resilience and the Urban Field Station.