Urban Garden Unveiled at Rehabilitated Affordable Housing Buildings in Bronx

4 min read

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Workforce Housing Group, Grow NYC, Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and other partners recently unveiled Kelly Street Green urban garden, which marked the final component of an extensive rehabilitation of five Bronx buildings.

By Joshua Ayers, Senior Editor

New York—The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Workforce Housing Group (WHG), Grow NYC, Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and other partners recently unveiled Kelly Street Green urban garden, which marked the final component of an extensive rehabilitation of five Hunts Point-Longwood area Bronx buildings.

Situated in the backyard spaces of the buildings located at 916, 920, 924 and 928 Kelly Street, the garden includes 13,000 square feet of landscaped space, which includes raised beds for fruit and vegetable production. The project also includes a rain harvesting system that is capable of capturing up to 13,500 gallons of water at a time or as much as 250,000 gallons annually, helping to reduce runoff into the East River.

Kelly Street Green was made possible largely in part to a $237,000 grand that WHG applied for and received from the DEP. An additional community grant totaling $100,000 was awarded to Banana Kelly by TD Bank.

“Investing in green infrastructure is a cost-effective way to improve the health of New York City’s local waterways, but it also brings many additional benefits to communities including a greener landscape, cleaner air, increased shade and cooler temperatures during the summer,” says DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd. “In addition to supporting gardens like this one through our grant program, DEP’s Green Infrastructure Program will transform the city’s streetscapes as we begin to install the first of thousands of specially designed curbside gardens that will not only manage storm water, but beautify neighborhoods as well.”

The infrastructure of the project is comprised of a 1,402-square-foot green roof, a 3,675-square-foot community garden with raised-bed planters, 2,775 square feet of gravel, permeable pagers with underlying storage area and eight water storage barrels. More than 2,000 vegetable plants were brought in to supplement the 500 or so plants that were started from seed earlier this year. When in full production, the garden is expected to yield more than $43,000 worth of produce a growing season, which will be made available to residents at the five buildings.

“Affordable housing is critical, and of vital importance to people, but helping grow that community and laying deep roots is what keeps a community grounded and sustainable for future generations,” says John A. Crotty, principal of Workforce Housing Group. “The garden is a community development tool, it’s a positive affirmation of building community based on the principal that residents should be given a real choice, and have agency over their lives. Rather than enforcing a policy by banning and preventing, the garden provides the opportunity to create and grow. The garden provides residents a real opportunity to make informed and healthy choices.”

WHG and HPD, which acquired the previously distressed buildings on Kelly Street after the previous owner allowed them to fall into disrepair, collaborated with GrowNYC on the garden project. The 40-plus year non-profit organization assisted with the planning of the garden space and provided technical assistance and tools for the project. Additionally, GrowNYC selected two on-site full-time caretakers who will help manage the garden. The caretakers will also help to facilitate other tenants to participate in the garden projects and have already started two programs, “Chef in the Kitchen” and “Know your Plants,” which are designed to educate residents about gardening and how to use the food produced at home.

“I applaud Workforce Housing Group’s vision and am thrilled to be a partner on this very exciting farm project,” says Marcel J. Van Ooyen, executive director at GrowNYC. “As an organization committed to greening New York City block by block, I can’t think of a more fitting urban greening effort for us to work on. The Kelly Street Green backyard farm is everything that urban sustainability should be about: saving water, greening a community and providing access to healthy, fresh produce. I am deeply grateful to Workforce Housing, DEP and all the project partners and funders of having the vision and commitment to create an urban oasis in one of the city’s most unlikely places.”

The rehabilitation of the five buildings on Kelly Street was completed in March 2013 and included roof replacement, exterior and sidewalk replacement, masonry work, replacement of the public hallway stairs, joist replacements, replacement of plumbing and storm drains, as well as upgrades to electrical and lighting systems. The buildings’ 81 affordable housing units received kitchens, bathrooms and apartment doors. Before and after images of the project can be viewed on the DEP’s Flicker Page.

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