The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), Council Member Charles Barron and representatives of East New York Farms! today hosted the opening ceremony for the Hands & Heart Garden, an urban farm managed by East New York Farms! and United Community Centers, a community advocacy group in East New York, Brooklyn. The 22,000 square foot site is located at the intersection of New Lots Avenue and Alabama Avenue in East New York where over 20 market gardeners will be cultivating more than 3,600 square feet of growing space. The garden was prepared for the unveiling by community residents and volunteers from New York Cares who worked to clean up the site, place soil, and build raised beds and paths. A mural created and donated by students of the High School of Fashion Industries was unveiled at the event, followed by a performance by Approaching Storm, a marching band composed of public school student musicians from East New York.
“HPD is thrilled to assist in the transformation of this once-vacant land into a precious community resource,” said HPD Commissioner Shaun Donovan. “Urban farms like the Hands & Heart Garden are a vital part of the City’s open space creation and preservation initiatives outlined in Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC to shape a healthy, sustainable New York by 2030. Thousands of vacant lots owned by HPD have been programmed for affordable housing. The use of this lot as an urban farm will compliment the significant investment we have made in affordable housing in East New York. This site not only beautifies the neighborhood, it also knits the community closer together and serves as inspiration for other communities throughout New York City. With the help of organizations like East New York Farms! and United Community Centers, we can work to better integrate the housing, nutritional, and recreational needs of our communities.”
The site of the Hands & Heart Garden was originally part of the HPD property portfolio until it was preserved and transferred by HPD to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation’s GreenThumb program in April 2007. The Parks Department in turn gave jurisdiction of the lot to United Community Centers, which is now working with East New York Farms! to design and manage the site as an urban farm. United Community Centers plans to use the urban farm in an ongoing effort to address food issues in the East New York community by promoting local and regional sustainable agriculture and community-based economic development. Urban farms, unlike most community gardens, grow produce intended for sale at markets, generating between $5 and $1,000 of annual profit. The Hands & Heart Garden will grow a variety of vegetables and flowers including okra, collard greens, corn, cucumbers, radishes, beets, cilantro, marigolds, bush beans, tomatoes, and eggplants.
“It has been an incredible experience working with neighborhood residents to transform this abandoned lot into a productive urban farm. The community residents are the core of this project, and their work is changing the landscape of East New York. I am excited to celebrate the efforts of all the people who have helped to build our new urban farm, “said East New York Farms Urban Agriculture Coordinator Jonah Braverman.
“GreenThumb is thrilled to celebrate on the longest day of year the opening of the newest farm site of the East New York Farms! project. As GreenThumb is expanding its service model to include market garden/urban agriculture sites alongside of its existing community garden and school garden focus - groups like ENYF! help lead the way,” said GreenThumb Deputy Director Susan Fields.
Under a settlement reached by Mayor Bloomberg and former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in 2002, HPD has transferred specific parcels for green space use, including urban farming, with other parcels designated for the construction of affordable housing. Many of the garden parcels are in areas of the City where HPD has made significant investment in affordable housing as part of the Mayor’s 165,000-unit New Housing Marketplace Plan, the largest municipal affordable housing plan in the nation’s history. HPD is continuing to identify opportunities for parcel transfers to GreenThumb for community gardens and urban farms.
# # #
The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development's (HPD) mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers. The department is the nation’s largest municipal housing development agency and is implementing Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to build and preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing over ten years. The New Housing Marketplace Plan is the largest municipal affordable housing effort in the nation’s history. As part of Mayor Bloomberg’s plaNYC HPD is working to create homes for almost a million more New Yorkers by 2030 while making housing more affordable and sustainable. HPD also encourages the preservation of affordable housing through education, outreach, loan programs and enforcement of housing quality standards.