Community gardens in the Greenpoint area have been closed to the public for the winter, some since the pandemic began last Spring. Now, many are gearing up for the upcoming season. And what that looks like depends on each garden.
Many local community gardens are Green Thumb gardens, under the jurisdiction of NYC Parks and subject to their rules and regulations. “GreenThumb gardens are essential to New Yorkers,” said Dan Kastanis of NYC Parks. He explained that gardeners had access gardens for essential maintenance during the pandemic, however they were closed to the public from last March through early July.
“Due to the volunteer nature of the garden groups that steward community gardens, and in recognition of the fact that current events have significantly limited their capacity, we have deferred to each group to determine if and how they will reopen,” said Kastanis. Most gardens decided the risk was too great to fully open.
Interested in getting involved with your local community garden? We checked in on the publicly maintained green spaces, some of which plan to open to new volunteers and members soon.
61 Franklin Street Garden
61 Franklin Street Garden is a small community garden on Franklin between Calyer and Oak Streets. Member Shaun Dubreuil says, “the garden has been open to members throughout the pandemic,” offering a tranquil environment for the gardeners that work to keep it beautiful.
When members have garden work days, they are required to social distance and wear masks. Only a limited number of members are allowed in the garden at one time, so shifts have been established.
Dubreuil says, “the garden is normally only open to the public when a member is there to open the gates.” Due to the pandemic, the community of 61 Franklin is not accepting new members right now, but they hope to allow new members to join soon.
Sunshine Community Garden
Founded in 1991, The Sunshine Community Garden (99-100 McKibben Street) is a peaceful sanctuary off of Graham Avenue. The garden is filled with vegetable beds and flowers. It normally holds workshops and events for both children and adults. The members even hold fun annual barbecues. The garden features a star-shaped children’s bed and small table in the children’s area.
Sunshine Community Garden opened for a short time last summer, but closed again for winter. Only members have been allowed in for maintenance.
Denise Williams is a member of Sunshine who exudes love for the garden. She truly loves being there and seeing others enjoy it. She says that people are used to the “gate being wide open.”
The Sunshine Community Garden members are revamping and designing the garden during this upcoming spring season. Williams’ long term goal is for more young people to join the garden and bring new life and new ideas. She’s hoping to sell the fruits and vegetables grown there and put the money back into the garden. She’s also hoping to restart children’s programs they normally have there.
Green Dome Garden
Green Dome Garden (229 N 12th St) is a 2,500 sq. ft. community garden in McCarren Park created by local volunteers for the Williamsburg and Greenpoint communities. It is a special garden with unusual plant combinations and high quality blooms.
Though it’s small, the garden provides a “big” experience for McCarren Park visitors thanks to its creative use of topography, plantings and masonry. Initially the garden was created for humans to relax and enjoy, but over time more attention has been given to providing a habitat for birds and insects.
For most of the pandemic, Green Dome has only allowed gardening maintenance to be performed and has not had open public hours. Hannah, a managing member of Green Dome, says that the garden is “in a state of in-between.” She said they will “slowly start to reopen to the public.”
Java Street Community Garden
The Java Street Community Garden (59 Java St.) is collaboratively run by a group of local residents who co-design and tend to the shared space. The garden features raised vegetable beds, fruit trees, perennials and native plants.
Java Street sees itself “as a living laboratory for participants who wish to gain design and gardening experience and to contribute to their community,” according the the garden’s website. It was founded in 2011 by former resident Stella Goodall and other volunteers working with an advocacy group called 596 Acres.
Java Street Community Garden is currently closed to the public.
Lentol Garden (178 Bayard St.) is a small oasis in the middle of the busy intersection of Graham Ave., Meeker Ave., Humbolt St., and the BQE. This community garden was named for Greenpoint resident Edward S. Lentol, who devoted thirty years to public service and to improving the quality of life in the area. It is now supported by his son, former NY State Assemblyman, Joseph Lentol.
Lentol Garden was established in 1992 by local resident and chief garden steward, Randy Sandlin, who used to pass by the space when it was a vacant lot that attracted a variety of illegal dumping. Thanks to Sandlin and other volunteers, it has since become a beautiful garden.
“Our garden is now closed due to the winter season and unfortunately we’ve been closed to the public because of the pandemic since last April. Only our gardeners are allowed in for maintenance and upkeep,” said Sandlin. Members of Lentol Garden are gearing up for the upcoming season and in talks with Green Thumb about what health and safety protocols should be put in place.
Keap Fourth Community Garden
The Keap Fourth Community Garden (347 Keap Street) is a 2,900 sq. ft. nonprofit, volunteer-run garden at the corner of South 4th and Keap Streets in Williamsburg normally open to the public everyday from 10am to 7pm. The garden is filled with 8 raised vegetable beds that are supplemented by a rainwater harvesting system. The garden was established in 2013 as part of Gardens for Healthy Communities, a program within the Mayor’s Obesity Task Force Initiative.
The garden is currently closed according to manager Crito Thornton, citing health and safety risks that the city still faces. Only a handful of gardeners can work at a time, wearing masks and maintaining social distance.
“With things closed, we recommend people volunteer and take advantage of restricted use while also giving back to the community,” said Thornton.
Red Shed Community Garden
Red Shed Community Garden (266 Skillman Avenue) is a small garden in East Williamsburg that acts as an educational resource, a space for community events, and a pick-up location for a CSA.
Red Shed is temporarily closed for the health and safety of the community, according to the garden’s website. The site states, “we have made the difficult decision to temporarily close the Red Shed Community Garden. Access will be limited to a handful of plot holders members and board members in order to maintain the garden during this time.”