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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Urban farming project transforms Marble Hill Houses

By Tanisia Morris
Posted
Marisol Díaz / The Riverdale Press
Austin David, 68, a resident since 1970, now spends five days week in the garden.

One morning in August, Austin David, a community gardener, decorated the soil of the youth garden at Marble Hill Houses with brown rocks that spelled the words “Marble Hill.” The sun beamed on garden beds containing basil, eggplant, collards, kale and lettuce. Passersby glanced at the well-kept garden that was enclosed in a chain-link fence. Hardly a rustic scene, there were no cows, pigs or chickens on the landscape — just a string of cars and buses zooming ahead on Broadway alongside commercial businesses and apartment complexes. Still, the undertaking fits the very prototype of urban farming. 

“It’s something that keeps me busy,” said Mr. David, 68, a member of the Marble Hill Tenants Association who helps maintain the community garden daily. “It’s like a hobby for me. It makes me feel good to know that I’m doing something that people have an interest in. ” 

On June 21, the Marble Hill Tenants Associations, New York City Housing Authority Gardening and Greening Program, Riverdale United Nations Association (UNA-USA Riverdale Chapter), Las Verdolagas Collective and Manhattan College’s Center for Urban Resilience and Environmental Sustainability (CURES) joined together to launch the inter-generational community gardening project on Broadway at West 228th Street. A second, youth garden, on the opposite side of the street near the Marble Hill Community Center, features over seven garden beds with flowers and vegetables.  

Organizers plan to expand the gardens to other locations around the 11 buildings that comprise the Marble Hill Houses. Part of a pilot project, vegetables and herbs that are harvested on the sites are shared exclusively with volunteers and participants. 

“This is an investment in the community,” said Lee Trotman, assistant director of Garden and Sustainability at NYCHA.

The project took off thanks to a bequest from longtime Riverdale resident Patricia Kozma of the UNA-USA Riverdale Chapter, but NYCHA also pitched in with funding using its operating budget, which is allocated to every NYCHA program, according to Mr. Trotman.

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