Elmhurst community grows garden next to LIRR tracks for over 20 years, agency unaware


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano
THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Residents down 47th Avenue in Elmhurst have been keeping a garden, including flower beds and vegetables, next to the tracks of the Long Island Railroad for over 20 years.

Updated Friday, July 25, 12:20 p.m.

 

Something is growing in the Long Island Railroad’s backyard.

But the MTA said it was unaware of hundreds of feet of community gardens snuggled against the railroad tracks in Elmhurst, mere feet from moving trains and in plain view of commuters looking out from train windows.

Elmhurst residents living down 47th Avenue between 76th and 82nd streets have been keeping the gardens, growing everything from flowers to vegetables for more than 20 years, according to one of the urban farmers, who declined to give his name.

These gardens are found behind the apartment buildings lining the avenue and are cared for by residents of the buildings.

The resident said he has been coming to the gardens to pick vegetables for the past 10 years as he picked a zucchini and hot peppers to bring home.

There is only one entrance to these gardens: through a hole cut through a fence that separates the buildings from the tracks.

Although surrounded by garbage, couches and tire rims, the vegetable and flower gardens are well kept. Residents have developed a path to allow visitors to move around the gardens.

One resident said he sees one or two people come in and out of the gardens every morning.

Community Board 4 said it was not aware of the gardens but that residents in the communities surrounding Elmhurst tend to take vacant plots of land and turn them into something useful, mostly gardens.

When asked about these particular gardens, which are on MTA/LIRR property, an LIRR spokesman said there are no records of any formal authorization given to residents at that location.

According to the spokesman, the MTA has a policy that allows individuals and entities to enter into “year-to-year agreements to maintain gardens on MTA agency property, subject to certain requirements.”

The LIRR instructed The Courier to “have [the gardeners] call our real estate person, John Coyne.”

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that an MTA spokesman declined to answer questions directly regarding safety.

 

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