Tag Archives: green space

Volunteers still locked out of Ridgewood community garden

| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo via Facebook/Ridgewood Community Garden


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.


Local group fights to preserve Ridgewood garden

| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photos courtesy of Clark Fitzgerald/Ridgewood Community Garden


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.


Long Island City dance company celebrates 15 years

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos by Rodney Zagury

Among the galleries, bars, restaurants and theatre spaces, there is one more thing that is bringing culture to LIC — dance.

Celebrating its 15th season as a company, Dance Entropy came to Long Island City in 2005, creating its first permanent home at Green Space on 24th Street.

To celebrate its anniversary, the nonprofit modern dance company is having a special concert, Skimming the Surface: Fragments of Collective Unconscious, from February 21 through 24.

The show, featuring both previously preformed and debut dances, was choreographed by company founder and artistic director Valerie Green.

“We wanted to celebrate this special milestone in Queens, in our home space,” said Green.

According to Green, the action of Skimming the Surface “centers around a table and 24 knives engaged in precarious acts used to skim the emotional, and physical surface in an attempt to reveal a root life altering moment.”

“I think [the show] will challenge what [people] think dance is,” said Green. “Some of the works are very theatrical. Modern dance has a large spectrum of styles and aesthetics. I think the show will be an interesting opportunity to see different dimensions of the modern dance world.”

Before moving to Long Island City, the dance company was renting rehearsal space in different locations.

Though the company, consisting of nine dancers, now has a permanent space, it still, as it always has, performs and teaches in other places around New York City, the U.S. and the world.

Green Space also provides space for others to hold rehearsals, classes and performances.

Green, who has worked in the New York City dance community for over 17 years, moved to Long Island City along with her company and resided there until recently when she moved to Sunnyside.

“I’ve enjoyed living in Queens the best out of everywhere,” said Green. “I like the neighborhood feel and diversity.”

“[Because I built my business here] I really feel ingrained in the community in multiple ways,” she added.

When her dance company first came to Long Island City, said Green, there wasn’t a place like Dance Entropy that was geared towards professionals.

“I could see in 2005 how western Queens was changing, particularly Long Island City, said Green.

“And I thought that it would be a good place to create a home base and allow for a dance venue and the dance community to grow because there was also a need for it in this area.”

Green said there are more dancers and choreographers living in the neighborhood today, but Green Space is still the main dance venue and rehearsal space in the area.

Although there is an interest in dance from locals, the company is still trying to grow its audience.

“We are trying to get the locals to “realize that there is a venue right in their neighborhood that they can walk to and support and see quality professional dance,” said Green.

Preview video of  “Skimming the Surface” (Valerie Green/Dance Entropy via YouTube)



One day plaza met with mixed feelings

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Walk this way, just for a day.

On Saturday, August 25, the Department of Transportation (DOT) set up a temporary pedestrian plaza in Astoria, allowing residents to relax, stroll and sample their neighborhood with more open space, after locals expressed mixed feelings about the proposed piazza.

DOT officials set up tables, chairs, umbrellas and planters along the intersection of 30th Avenue and Newtown Avenue. Residents sat at tables, sipping coffee and chatting with friends while enjoying the sunny summer weather.

“I feel like Astoria lacks outdoor spaces where people can sit around,” said local resident Bryan Cronk, who was spotted sitting in the pedestrian plaza. “If it’s kept clean, it could be kind of cool.”

Cronk said he avoids the nearby Athens Square Park — another outdoor space — because of its lack of cleanliness and upkeep.

Passers-by had mixed feelings about the shut-down street, however.

“Is this permanent?” shouted a man walking by, who said he was skeptical of how traffic patterns would be managed in the already somewhat congested area.

“This one-day event provided Astoria residents and visitors the opportunity to experience a plaza in the neighborhood and to see for themselves the benefits that safe, accessible pedestrian space can provide,” said DOT spokesperson Scott Gastel.

Community Board 1 District Manager Lucille Hartmann said the group supported the trial run but could not comment on her opinion of the plaza. She said the possibility of installing a permanent plaza would be discussed during a public hearing on September 11.


Railway favored over greenway?

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

A plan for a greener Queens has met some opposition.

The Institute for Rational Mobility, a non-profit group of transit advocates, disapproves of the construction of a greenway along three miles of abandoned railway stretching from Rego Park to Ozone Park. They feel the train tracks, which have remained idle for 50 years, would better serve the community if revived for their original purpose – extended transportation throughout the borough.

George Haikalis, president of the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility, feels the reactivation of the railway does not necessarily mean hindering the creation of a park, suggesting that the two projects can exist simultaneously. Haikalis, who considers himself “a long-time supporter of parks and open space,” compares his vision of a tandem greenway and railway to the layout of the Manhattan Bridge.

“[Officials in charge of designing the project] just have to be thoughtful and creative,” said Haikalis. “It’s not trying to pit one against the other.”

Haikalis alleges the venture requires less work, as several structures are already in place, estimating the undertaking will cost about $500 million. If revived, the railway will run from Manhattan to John F. Kennedy Airport.

Assemblymember Philip Goldfeder said he vehemently opposes turning the railway into a park, alleging that the revival of a train to south Queens will benefit a community he calls “severely underserved.” Goldfeder also argued the necessity of an extended transit system if the proposed plan to build a convention center at Aqueduct Racetrack falls into place.

While both Goldfeder and Haikalis are in favor of preserving green space, they feel the railway will best serve the area if restored.

QueensWay, three-mile park planned

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

File photo

Along an abandoned stretch of railway in Forest Hills, Travis Terry envisioned a park. His dream – open space, a bike trail, paths for pedestrians, trees and grass – is now in the early stages of coming true.

Friends of the QueensWay, a group begun by Terry that advocates for the construction of a park over three miles of deserted train tracks, has partnered with the New York State Trust for Public Land. The groups have entered the preliminary phase of planning a new park.

“I took [the New York State Trust for Public Land] on a tour and showed them all the possibility here,” said Terry. “I think they saw the tremendous opportunity.”

Terry assisted in the creation of Manhattan’s High Line Park, a similar project also built on top of vacant railway. He alleges the QueensWay initiative is something locals have had interest in for some time.

Marc Matsil, New York State Director for the Trust for Public Land, believes the greenway has the potential to connect neighborhoods, running from Rego Park to Ozone Park. He speculates the greenspace will provide a cultural outlet for the already diverse area, and there are plans to establish food carts from local vendors.

Community Board 9 chair Andrea Crawford supports the project, claiming many residents are favorable towards the idea as well.

“There have been a lot of positive responses,” said Crawford. “It’s hard for anyone to say they don’t want more greenspace.”

The Trust for Public Land will conduct a feasibility study on the space in 2012, examining the park’s potential costs, structural issues and security requirements. According to Crawford, no public funds will go towards conducting the research.

“Once we have answers to all these studies, I think those who are skeptical will be on board,” said Crawford.

Crawford called the current state of the projected park’s location “a nuisance” and “dangerous,” claiming the site is littered with old mattresses and empty beer bottles.

“[The park] will help the city be more ‘green’.  It has the potential to be a world class park,” said Crawford.

Matsil claims The Trust for Public Land and Friends of the QueensWay are looking to gain involvement from area residents when designing the park, hoping community input creates a space that celebrates Queens culture.

New Playground at P.S. 173

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

P.S. 173 unveiled a new playground at a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 20 at the school, located at 174-10 67th Avenue in Fresh Meadows. During the ceremony, students performed demonstrations of yoga, music and chess.

The new playground, which took approximately 14 months to build, was designed as a “green space,” and it provides sections for both passive and active recreation. There is also a “Wall of Friendship and Respect,” which was designed with student input.