Support Your Community Garden


Yesterday marked the groundbreaking ceremony at the Phoenix Garden in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn. Even though the air was chilly and the sky was grey, a sizable number of people turned out to celebrate the community garden. A pair of garden gloves was handed out as people entered the garden. Of course, I scored a cute pair of purple ones. Apple cider, muffins, and pretzels were served by Daniel Strecker, Youthmarket Operations Coordinator for the CENYC, as the crowd waited for the ceremony to begin.

Marcel Van Ooyen, Executive Director of the CENYC introduced Adrian Benepe, Parks & Recreation Commissioner. Mr. Benepe gave the students from PS 155’s garden club, who were in attendance, a pop quiz with questions like where do apples grow. In unison the students responded “on trees!”. Christine Quinn, City Council Speaker, then spoke about the city’s combined mission of ending both hunger and obesity through projects like the Phoenix Garden. The redevelopment of the garden was made possible by capital funding from Ms. Quinn and the City Council. Darlene Mealy, District 41 Council Member, offered up words of encouragement to the PS 155 garden club members. Robert Kafin, CENYC Chairman, covered a number of exciting additions that will be made to the garden including: a gazebo, a trellis for climbing plants, picnic tables, 1,000 gallon rainwater harvesting tank, enhanced compost site, and an outdoor classroom. This year the garden will have 50 individual plots.


Jerry Summers, Phoenix Garden Member, said he had been gardening for 10 years and elicited several laughs when he said he wanted to share that black eyed peas don’t always come in Goya cans. Ed Fowler, Director of Neighbors Together, a soup kitchen located down the street,  spoke about his organization’s mission to end hunger and how participating in a community garden is part of the solution. If you are interested in volunteering at Neighbors Together, they need help Monday – Friday. The serve lunch 12pm-3pm and dinner 5pm-7pm. Call ahead first to find out if they need volunteers on that day. 718-498-7256.


I later met two of the members of the garden – Marcia Denson and Anne Serrano – who had been actively involved in the planning meetings for the garden renovation. The meetings were a collaborative process with a 15 person committee let by the Green Guerillas. When I asked Ms. Denson and Ms. Serrano what they were looking forward to growing this year, they replied with a number of vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, eggplant, collard greens, cabbage, okra, spinach, and basil. Last year, membership to the garden was full and there was even a waiting list of 10-15 people. Ms. Serrano pointed out that you can still join the community garden even if you don’t have a plot.


The space, the dirt, the people at the garden were brimming with enthusiasm for all of the potential this new renovation would bring. The community had watched as an abandoned plot of land had been transformed into a garden over the past few years. For more information on community gardens, please visit Green Guerillas and Green Thumb. Feel free to share what is going on at your community garden, what you are growing, and how it is going.

3 Responses to “Support Your Community Garden”

  1. JohnD Says:

    Pretty impressive collection (including BrooklynFarmer)!

    I’ve volunteered at Neighbors Together before – a really fun and worthwhile place to volunteer for people who find (make?) the time. Isn’t this Brownsville, though?

  2. ashleymendolia Says:

    Great article Betsey! Also, my organization recently started a partnership with New York Restoration Project, that I wanted to pass your way. Are you familiar with the organization?

  3. chris raeburn Says:


    I was doing the usual internet search re:phoenixgarden and came across your article – it looks a very exciting development – and all that space!

    I’d love to hear more as to how it’s going.

    Our Phoenix Garden is a third of an acre in the middle of London’s West End.

    Best wishes,


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