A garden is soon to grow in Greenpoint
by Lisa A. Fraser
Jan 25, 2012 | 9666 views | 1 1 comments | 153 153 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On a recent rainy day, the city-owned lot at 59 Java Street was empty and filled with puddles of muddy water. And although some vegetation has managed to accomplish haphazard growth, in the coming years, the mud-filled space could very well become a tiny urban oasis for the Greenpoint neighborhood.

A group of 13 residents, calling themselves the Java Street Collaborative, and led by Stella Goodall, are aiming to turn the publicly owned space into a community green space.

In partnership with 596 Acres, a nonprofit group that goes around scouting vacant land in the city and sets residents up with help needed to recreate the lot into a thriving food/green space, Goodall and vested Greenpoint residents are closer to seeing their vision come to fruition.

“The aim is to have it be a living laboratory of sorts, from education on the garden, to landscaping, even architecture and design” Goodall said. And with a biologist, landscape designers, and architects part of the collaborative, the vision seems possible.

The group also wants to clean up the poor soil quality at the lot and plans to chart the soil's improvement over time using a method of mushroom compost.

“We want it to become a place for the community to gather,” said Quilian Riano, an architect who is part of the collaborative. “It will be a way to educate people about their community. We want to create a garden open to everyone, from the Polish community to the new Mexican community.”

The group is committed to having it be a garden or open space which opens on a regular schedule, and not just for those who hold the key.

But while plans are rapidly developing, the city has not yet granted the group a permit to use the land, which has been vacant for over 10 years. It could take up to a year to receive the permit.

The Housing and Preservation Department (HPD) has jurisdiction over the land and it is slated for development, which means that if the collaborative does get a permit, it could be temporary since HPD could take the lot back in the event a successful bidder comes along to purchase the land.

Knowing this, Goodall remains steadfast.

“We just want to see what we could do with it until that time,” she said, noting that in the past residents in the Lower East Side rallied to save community spaces from development.

The group is also trying to get the help of the Department of Parks and Recreation through GreenThumb. They have the option of being a community garden group through the program, which requires a minimum of 12 active members.

The entire process has been a first for Goodall, who before this admits she wasn't too community-oriented.

“But I wanted to see where I could take this,” she said after seeing fliers that were put up last August on the lot's fence by 596 Acres asking for community members to reach out and transform the space.

“I wanted to see more access to green space in this part of Greenpoint,” she said.

The garden also sits a few blocks away from the East River Ferry Terminal and Goodall envisions traffic flow from there to the space.

The collaborative must present their plans and ideas to the community soon to get some input and hear concerns. They plan to visit Community Board 1 in the coming months.

The group is also thinking of getting local businesses involved in the space, such as Word Bookstore on Franklin Street. The idea is to have readings in the garden, as well as arts and crafts events for children and seniors.

Many of the group's members live on the same residential block where the space would be transformed. It sits in between two houses, each with no windows on the sides facing the lot, and the members say that they'd like to get the residents in those homes involved as well.

“Whatever activities we do have, we are very intent on being mindful of the fact that we are surrounded by residents,” Goodall said.

For more information on the Java Street Collaborative or to join, visit: javastgarden.blogspot.com

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January 26, 2012
great article, thanks Lisa, but a correction is necessary: it's 59 Java, not 69.