2009-03-18 / Features

Community Gardeners Fight Parks Department Takeover

BY GEORGINA YOUNG-ELLIS

Flowers, herbs and vegetables line a walkway at Two Coves Community Garden, now threatened with a Parks Department takeover. Flowers, herbs and vegetables line a walkway at Two Coves Community Garden, now threatened with a Parks Department takeover. Urban gardeners who follow their craft at the Two Coves Community Garden at the intersection of 8th Street and Astoria Boulevard have recently had more to worry about than aphids and compost circulation. The Parks Department notified the volunteers who run the green space that it was considering turning the site into a park, based on a more than decade-old proposal that has lately been resurrected.

In 2006, the once neglected lot that is now Two Coves was taken over by a grass-roots initiative by means of a city license from Green Thumb and strong neighborhood support, and turned into a beautiful asset to the neighborhood, where anyone who joins can grow healthy, nutritious food for themselves and their families. All are welcome; indeed, the Two Coves Garden is a place as diverse as the neighborhood it reflects, with more than 200 gardeners from all over Astoria, including many from the nearby Astoria Houses, senior citizens, the disabled, children of all ages and folks from as many as 11 different countries of origin.

But now these dedicated gardeners are afraid that their unique space will become a city park, though there are already two large parks, Astoria and Rainey, within a five-minute walk from the Two Coves Garden. As member Garrett Ramirez pointed out, "Public parks require significant funding for development and maintenance. But Two Coves is maintained by volunteers who not only garden, but do everything from pick up trash to shovel sidewalks in the winter. We're a public space that pays for itself that the entire community can enjoy."

Gardener and Astoria Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) President Stacy Ornstein added, "We want the garden to maintain its ability to allow local residents the opportunity to garden and grow together. Two Coves Community Garden provides space for hundreds of people to cultivate their own food, reverse damaging obesity and unhealthy nutritional trends, interact across cultures and generations and harvest a lifelong love of urban gardening—all while reducing municipal costs, crime and pollution!"

Other gardeners commented that community gardens are known to increase property values, reduce waste through composting, provide access to healthy food and serve youth as an outdoor classroom, teaching math, science, the environment, health, nutrition, social skills, leadership, responsibility and more.

"As I sit under sunshine I smile at lilies, daffodils and roses. The scent of my breath hints fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits. My body curves, outlined by beautiful trees and sunflower stems, collecting sweet sounds of individual chatter and laughter. You turn to see who am I? Two Coves Community Garden, welcome!" declaimed gardener Vanessa Jones-Hall, a resident of Astoria Houses, in a testament to the inspiration and satisfaction members receive when working the soil at Two Coves.

Members of the Two Coves Community Garden feel that First Lady Michelle Obama would support the garden's existence, having recently told the USDA that she is a great believer in community gardens. Members are hoping to gather community support as they work with the Department of Parks & Recreation and local officials in the coming weeks to preserve this community resource. Information about the garden and how to get involved in protecting it can be found at www.twocovescommunitygarden.org or by calling 718-512-8649.

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