Tag Archives: cb5

Volunteers still locked out of Ridgewood community garden


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo via Facebook/Ridgewood Community Garden

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

The Ridgewood Community Garden has been padlocked since late June, when the MTA first issued a vacate order prohibiting access to the land beneath the M train tracks between Woodbine Street and Woodward Avenue.

Despite the efforts of garden volunteers and community leaders such as City Councilman Antonio Reynoso and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, the MTA is standing by their decision to physically clear the land and destroy the garden on Aug. 3.

“A few days ago, [the MTA] took down their signs for us to evacuate, but they’re still being firm on Monday, Aug. 3, being the date when the whole lot is cleaned,” explained a garden volunteer. “This week we hope to reach out to Reynoso and Nolan again to see if they can help mediate with the MTA so we can maintain access to the lot.”

But all is not lost, according to garden volunteers. The group hopes to continue to raise awareness of the lack of green space within the neighborhood, while struggling to cultivate an outdoor hub for the community and local agriculture.

“No matter what the outcome, I think we need to foster as much community engagement as possible,” garden volunteer Leah Blair said. “It isn’t about the physical space, but what it represents.”

The garden volunteers raised the idea of distributing free “seed bombs” (packets) to the community to help encourage independent interest in urban gardening.

“The seed bomb can carry the greening of our urban landscape beyond the fenced oasis,” Blair said.

Garden volunteers ask that members of the community gather at the site on Aug. 3 in a show of support.

For updates and more information, visit the Ridgewood Community Garden’s Facebook page.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Local group fights to preserve Ridgewood garden


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photos courtesy of Clark Fitzgerald/Ridgewood Community Garden

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

When a small group of local organizers first saw a dormant stretch of land beneath the M train line between Woodbine Street and Woodward Avenue, they envisioned a community space brimming with agriculture, urban farming and educational programs.

Now, facing eviction from MTA New York City Transit, the group is rallying support and petitioning the MTA in an effort to preserve what organizers call Ridgewood’s first community garden.

“Ridgewood’s powerful spirit of resilience and neighborhood autonomy within New York inspired us to start the community garden,” the group’s media representative Clark Fitzgerald said. “Yet despite the strength of its community ties, Ridgewood…distinctly lacks green space for neighbors to gather and share their lives.”

The Ridgewood Community Garden group is a self-described mix of “young but seasoned farmers, urban ecologists, social media promoters and community organizers” working together to create much-needed green space within Ridgewood’s urban landscape.

“This space in particular was the obvious choice: 2,250 square feet of land in the heart of the neighborhood, discarded for decades, no more than a local dumping ground and cesspool, but full of potential if we put in the work, and capable of bringing the block together if we did it right,” Fitzgerald said. “We surveyed the site, tested the soil, and found it ideal for our experiment in urban rehabilitation in the neighborhood we love.”

According to Fitzgerald, the group’s organizers assumed stewardship over the land after first seeking out the land’s owners.

“Initially the MTA could not tell us whether or not they owned the property,” he explained. “When we found a hole cut in the fence, we decided to install a gate to steward access to the plot and were met with vast enthusiasm from everyone who came by, including many MTA agents from the M stations and bus terminal. With their implicit support, we moved forward on cleaning and revitalizing the land.”

The group was recently awarded a $3,000 grant from Citizens Committee of New York City. In its 2014 grant application, the group expressed its goals for creating a “thriving complex ecosystem of edible plants, medicinal herbs, bees, hens and people like us” that would “become a center of Ridgewood social life and collective work for whoever wishes to jump in and get their hands dirty.”

Fitzgerald also credits strategic assistance from 596 Acres, a group that helps communities remediate abandoned lots, as well as huge political backing from Community Board 5Councilman Antonio Reynoso and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, with the garden’s initial success.

According to Fitzgerald, the garden’s problems began back in June.

“An absentee landlord was reported for illegally dumping tons of waste in the lot from an apartment renovation, and reported the garden [in the same condition], for reasons malicious and unknown,” Fitzgerald said. “That week, MTA representatives came by to take pictures and confirmed everything was fine to stay, until the next morning, when we found our locks changed and signs posted that we were illegally occupying the area. We now found ourselves unable to water our many plants, and unclear as to how to proceed to secure this vital resource for our community.”

In a statement, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the MTA issued the vacate order due to concerns over security.

“We asked the owner of the property adjacent to the lot (Woodward Avenue Commons) to clean up the lot and remove a dumpster that was placed on the lot by one of his tenants (a restaurant),” Ortiz said. “The lot has since been cleaned. The Ridgewood Community Garden group never received permission to enter or use the lot and they are essentially trespassing.  We’ve asked them to vacate the lot no later than Aug. 3. We cannot have anyone occupy the lot under our structure as it is deemed a security risk. ”

In an effort to preserve the Ridgewood Community Garden, the group created a petition on change.org calling for the MTA to reach an agreement with the group allowing access to the land and plants, as well as guaranteeing custodianship through a garden license agreement.

“The garden’s necessity for us as a community is crystal clear, and I ask everyone who lives here and believes in Ridgewood’s future to do everything they can to preserve what we have managed to do at Ridgewood Community Garden,” Fitzgerald said.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Speed bumps installed along Juniper Valley Park, residents call for more safety measures


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Salvatore Licata

It’s going to be a bumpy ride for speeders along Juniper Boulevard North after the installation of three speed bumps last week.

The stretch along the north side of Juniper Valley Park has long been a source of community concern. Cars and motorcycles would routinely zip along the street, which had no traffic lights or stop signs, residents said.

After a request from Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and the approval from Community Board 5 (CB 5), speed bumps were installed at 78th Street, 77th Place and 75th Street to deter cars from speeding, according to a Department of Transportation (DOT) representative.

But on the south side, residents are calling for a traffic signal to make it safer for pedestrians to cross the street.

For over a year now, CB 5 has been asking the DOT to do a traffic signal study to possibly add a traffic light on Juniper Boulevard South.

“The transportation members of the board felt a traffic light would be more efficient on [the south] side,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of CB 5. “A lot of people go to the park each day. They should have a safe place to cross.”

The community board is calling for a light on 78th Street where there is an entrance to the park.

The request for a light at the intersection was denied once already by the DOT but the board is asking for a reconsideration.

The DOT did offer to put a speed bump in the area of 78th Street, due to a request from Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, according to a DOT representative.

But CB 5 turned it down because they would like to see a light there.

Board members feel that even though speeding is a problem all around the park, this spot would be safer with a traffic light because it will eliminate two problems: speeding and crossing issues, Giordano said.

The request for a reconsideration of a traffic signal study was made on March 31.

The DOT has yet to make a decision. Giordano hopes that the DOT will decide soon, especially because school is now back in session and P.S./I.S. 49 sits just two blocks away on 80th Street.

But if the DOT does again deny a traffic signal, Giordano said the board will be more open to other options.

“If the traffic signal gets denied again,” Giordano said, “then we will be more open to possibly putting a speed bump there.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

CB5 chair: Glendale homeless shelter could be environmental nightmare


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Billy Rennison

Community concern caused by a rumored homeless shelter in Glendale may have been premature.

The site in question, 78-16 Cooper Avenue, “does not meet Building Code requirements for residential occupancy and, due to the age and condition and previous occupancies, could be an environmental nightmare,” Community Board 5 said in a release.

Rumors began circulating last week that the owner of the property, Michael Wilner, was in talks with a nonprofit that could potentially use the site for a homeless shelter.

No application for a shelter has been submitted, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) said.

“The building, which currently has several active Department of Building violations, may contain lead paint, asbestos and various PCB contaminants. The cost and time to convert this structure to a residential facility would be extensive and possibly twice as much as new construction,” Vincent Arcuri, chair of CB5 said.

The vacant factory currently has nine open Department of Building violations.

Prior occupants included an aircraft parts manufacturer, knitting mills, machine shops and Eastern Cabinet Company, Arcuri said, while adding there are rumors the facility was also used as part of the Manhattan Project.

“The site is located adjacent to a known Brownfield site and, due to its low elevation and location, may contain underground pockets of PERC (dry cleaning fluid) from the many defunct knitting mills in the area,” Arcuri said.

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley came out against the site being used for a homeless shelter, saying the nearly 3 acre space should serve the community.

Wilner would not return requests for comment.

If Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced an emergency condition, the site may be able to be used, however.

Nine new shelters have opened in the city recently, prompted by the homeless population’s record numbers. There are 43,774 people currently in homeless shelters, according to the DHS.