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New York success story: growing the Garden of Eden in Brooklyn

The gentrification of Fort Greene has left longer-term residents with a problem: how to get hold of affordable and fresh food. A community gardening project is sowing the seeds of change.

Community gardens are nothing new in the United States: there is a long tradition that began during the world wars and the Great Depression, when community gardening participation became almost universal. “Victory gardens” flourished during the second world war and provided a way for communities to produce food in times of crisis. As the United States recovered from war, community gardens diminished in number, but they made a comeback in the early 1970s when food prices increased and an environmental consciousness arose.

The Garden and Greening Programme was established by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) in 1963 to beautify residences, educate the population and support residents interested in gardening. At the beginning, the authority distributed flyers inviting tenants to garden and a contest was organised. The initiative was warmly welcomed and 105 gardens were planted in over 65 NYCHA developments.

Urban agriculture initiatives – in particular, community gardens – are strongly supported by the association to this day, despite its difficult economic situation. The benefits that gardening activities provide for these communities are seen to be worth the extra effort and resources required to implement them.

Many academics have focused on the motives that drive people to participate in a community garden. The most common are health benefits, access to food, neighbourhood beautification and social interactions. These are the main reasons behind the creation of NYCHA gardens – and they are the motivations that drive gardeners in the Garden of Eden.

Garden of Eden is a community garden on the grounds of one of NYCHA’s housing developments in Fort Greene, a neighbourhood in the northwestern part of Brooklyn. Today, Fort Greene is an effervescent neighbourhood that attracts artists inspired by the many cultural facilities the area offers. It has a rich and well-preserved history, and a large African-American community whose roots go back to the beginning of the 19th century.

At that time the Brooklyn Navy Yard, once the largest naval construction facility in the United States, opened its doors and provided opportunities for skilled workers. By the 1870s, more than half of the African-American population of Brooklyn lived in this neighbourhood, alongside Irish, German and English immigrants.

During the second world war, the Brooklyn Navy Yard increased its workforce, and in 1944 NYCHA built two public housing developments for the wartime workforce: the Raymond V Ingersoll houses and the Walt Whitman houses. These high-rise developments occupied 38 acres, 20% of the neighbourhood, and accommodated 14,000 people in 3,500 units. In 1966, however, the shutdown of the Navy Yard left many residents unemployed.

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Article de Beatriz Penida Revilla, le 20 mai 2014, The Guardian


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Posté le : 21 mai 2014

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