This is the third part in a series about the New York Restoration Project, an organization committed to providing New Yorkers with equitable access to green space.
The Aberdeen Street Community Garden in Bushwick, Brooklyn is working to provide green space for residents to build community, celebrate the arts, and practice sustainable gardening.
Established in 1989, the Aberdeen Street Community Garden served as a makeshift construction staging area for years. In 2020, New York Restoration Project (NYRP), along with local nonprofits Vital Brooklyn Initiative and BK ROT helped to transform the Central Brooklyn garden into a bustling community hub.
The garden features Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant paths, a greenhouse, compost bins, off-grid solar energy, water supply, and nine member-stewarded raised planting beds. A large covered pavilion in the heart of the garden houses picnic tables and benches used for movie nights, live music, and youth theatre performances.
The garden also acts as a gathering space—an important goal voiced by community members before renovations began. “We want to bring creators here, arts, kids… we want to showcase the vibrancy of the space and let people know it exists,” Alzena Bell, an organizing member of the garden, tells Food Tank.
A cohort of volunteer members hold gate keys, answer community questions, and tend to beds. According to Bell, who joined the garden after stumbling across it on a walk, recruiting volunteers has never been a challenge. Neighbors often stop at the garden after bringing children to the park beside it and want to get involved.
Partnerships with other local organizations have also proven essential to the garden’s operations. Since helping with the garden renovations, BK ROT, a bike-powered waste and composting service, has remained a partner of the Aberdeen Street Garden’s. Riders collect food scraps from businesses and individuals for a monthly rate, and process them to compost. The compost is sold by donation to community members, as well as used in the Community Garden.
“We’re so disconnected from our resources, like where our water comes from or what happens to our trash,” Ceci Pineda, BK Rot Executive Director, tells Food Tank. “BK ROT tries to make visible the labor and community of animals and fungi involved in composting.”
Engagement Coordinator Jon Crow says that “building connections is one of NYRP’s superpowers.” A gardener since 1985, Crow oversaw the Aberdeen Street restoration project. Today, he helps the garden’s members self-organize and connect with external partners.
“It thrills me to see young people involved,” Crow tells Food Tank. “Continued stewardship is about equity, food security, and engagement…making sure the gardens stay open and accessible to everybody.”
Members hope that more of the Central Brooklyn community will explore and enjoy the garden as it grows. “It’s a hidden gem,” Bell tells Food Tank. “We’re learning as we go, and it’s very rewarding.”
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