Happy Fall from BQLT

As we lay cover crop seeds, plant trees and bulbs, and ready our gardens for hibernation, we are looking back thankfully over a full growing season and reflecting on long summer days, new murals and volunteers, and all of the wonderful workdays and events we have been able to attend in the past few months (including a BQLT wedding down in North Carolina)!  We finished out our summer on September 8th with a 150-person strong garden tour and barbeque. An enthusiastic and intrepid group of walkers and cyclists visited 11 of BQLT's community gardens during the day! Thanks again to all of the gardens who participated, and especially to the NYC Food & Fitness Partnership for providing CitiBikes and to Central Bainbridge Community Garden for hosting the barbeque. Read on to hear how we're wrapping up for Fall. As always, email us with suggestions, photos, or articles for our next newsletter in 2014.  

BQLT's 6th Annual Celebration of Gardens

From the perspective of Board Member and Clifton Place Gardener Amelia Blanquera

This is my third year attending the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust’s Annual Celebration of Gardens.  And every year the enthusiasm of the gardeners energizes and reminds me why I participate in BQLT - It’s about community.
I had a chance to meet Rose Bibuld, a senior founder of the 227th Street Cambria Heights Community Garden in Queens. She was awarded a Community Service award for her activism and continued growth of her garden.  And there was Joe Robinson from the Classon FulGate Block Association Garden in Brooklyn, who, at 90, looks a sprightly 65. He received a Presidential Award.
I’m always amazed how many city and state politicians celebrate with the BQLT community too. This year, Albert Vann (Council Member, 36th District), Letitia James (Council Member, 35th District), Laurie Cumbo (Council Member-elect, 35th District), Robert Cornegy (District Leader, 56th AD) and Renee Collymore (District Leader, 57th AD) were in attendance. These leaders were joined by Walter T. Mosely (Assemblyman, 57th AD, Brooklyn), Barbara Clark (Assemblywoman, 33rd AD, Queens), and Velmanette Montgomery (State Senator, 25th SD, Brooklyn) in welcoming the crowd. Also, Hakeem Jeffries (Congressman, Brooklyn, NY-8) extended his greeting and support via his representative Lee Church.
There were several workshops, performances, delicious food, and lots of prizes for the raffle. We had generous donations from the Queens Botanic Garden, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Green Guerillas, GreenThumb, the Whole Food Market, the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights Hospitality Committee, and many others. A dear friend, the photographer Kenneth Shillingford, even donated a limited edition print for the occasion. 
If I had any regrets, it was that my garden, the Clifton Place Block Association Garden, didn’t win the weed-whacker as the door prize - but there is always next year. Perhaps the sign of a great celebration were the hugs and kisses shared by old and new friends. In especially good spirits was the youngest BQLT hostess, one-year old Melina Evans. The daughter of Board members Taina and Jamel Evans, she charmed everyone with her happy disposition and waves goodbye.

Top photo: 
BQLT's Senior Gardeners receiving awards

Board Member Ola Akinmowo leading a children's workshop

Board President Demetrice Mills with State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblywoman Barbara Clark

"Best Feeling Ever"

Summer is the perfect time to introduce new volunteers to the wonders of community gardening.  One of the many highlights was providing youth service in United Herkimer Garden. Game On, a non-profit organization dedicated to building community leaders by enhancing their quality of life through education, civic service, and athletics, provided student volunteers and the United Herkimer Garden hosted a workday.  Before the student athletes volunteered in United Herkimer garden they took a crash course in going green. In a workshop led by  Jamel Evans (BQLT Board Member) and Rashid Littlejohn (both of GCAMP - Genuinely Care About My Planet), they learned the importance of having access to healthy food, conscious consumerism, and gardening.

The young hoop stars volunteered their time at the United Herkimer garden. While there, they maintained the stone pathway, removed invasive species of plants, and watered the garden beds. All of the vegetables grown at the garden are given to the needy.  The presence of these young athletes was a great help for garden members who may find weeding a bit tedious and overwhelming at times. Pat, the current caretaker of the Garden who has been there for over 30 years, really appreciated the kids helping her out, and really wants them to come back. But perhaps the kids and their coaches say it best - "I would have never thought to do this. I didn't even know this garden was here and I walk by it everyday. But today was a lot of fun, I'm glad we came" - Saquan H. (Student Athlete) and simply "Best feeling ever." - Dwanye Harmon (Co-founder of Game On).

Read more about Game On, GCAMP, and United Herkimer Garden.

Top photo: United Herkimer Garden 

Game On students at practice

Where in the World is Brothel Dean?

Those who frequent the Operations Committee meetings may have been missing the presence of long-time Co-Chair Brothel Dean.  Brothel, always a familiar and helpful face at our gardens, has relocated to North Carolina and was married to Antonia Jean "Penny" Henry of Wadesboro, NC on October 19th, 2013.  Board President Demetrice Mills and First Lady Dorothy Mills were in attendance and were so glad and honored to be included in their very special day.  It seemed as though the whole town was there, and the couple even jumped the broom.  The reception was enjoyed by all.  From all at BQLT, we would love to extend our congratulations and the best going forward for Brothel and Penny.  Who knows, maybe we'll see a BQLT Garden soon in North Carolina. Read more about the history of Jumping the Broom

BQLT Board Members with LTA President Rand Wentworth at the LTA Rally in New Orleans (photo courtesy Land Trust Alliance).

I Remember - Enrique Alie, Clifton Place Garden

Short stories of how vacant lots became thriving community gardens, as told to Nitza Wagoner by the gardeners themselves.

In 1991 two block associations at Clifton Place joined efforts to clean-up the dumping site at 289-291 Grand Avenue. The lot was home to homeless drug addicts who often brought debris in the truck stationed there. The clean-up was a neighborhood effort with the support of city officials, politicians and our Community Board to enhance and reclaim the lot for the neighborhood. Through letter writing and phone campaign we finally got the NYC Sanitation Department to clean and level the lot.

An earth berm was built to stop the retaking of the lot by the former illegal tenants and the neighborhood coalition built a fence immediately after the clean-up to prevent further illegal occupation. The two block associations accepted the challenge of creating a garden space by joining the city agency of Green Thumb to lease the plot for $1 per year. With the participation of people from Clifton Place, about eight to two dozen at the time, volunteers worked tirelessly to rid the lot of bricks and debris to prepare for the future Clifton Place Block Association Garden. The name is a misnomer; the garden is actually located on Grand Avenue. Green Thumb provided materials and soil for vegetable and plant beds. A new chain link fence and gates were also installed. That was the very start of our community garden.

In 1999 when Mayor Giuliani decided to sell all the city gardens, the grassroots movement protested opposition and demolition of the gardens throughout the city. One hundred and fifteen gardens were set aside FOR SALE! Clifton Place Garden was in the first group of gardens listed to be sold. Our garden was one of the 35 that was spared and bought by The Trust for Public Land. Because of these organizations the gardens are now protected and remain open green spaces in perpetuity. The Trust for Public Land owned and managed the gardens and created a new land trust. The Brooklyn Queens Land Trust (BQLT) was formed in 2004. This same year a wrought iron fence was installed at Clifton Place Garden. We also got a water system later in the year. The ownership of the gardens was officially transferred over to BQLT in 2011. 
One of our earlier gardeners, Connie Hudgins was first president of Brooklyn Queens Land Trust.  I served as co-chair of the garden along with Michael McLeod for 21 years.  It has taken a lot of years, a lot of work and persistence to bring it to the level it is.

I remember …at the onset of the garden that there were 8-12 members actively working.  Now the garden has 60 members and a waiting list.  I am presently project manager, coordinator and liaison. Though the creation of this wonderful space has required numerous hours of toil and hard work, it has been my passion.  The way the garden has evolved is the reward and has given me a tremendous sense of pride.

I envision the continued support and partnership with BQLT.   I look forward to more improvement and strength in the garden body and desire more youth oriented programs to be created to inspire and educate youth and adults alike. We presently have a kids’ house, a sandbox and 2-tier garden bed for the children.  There is also a new patio area for social activity and relaxation.   I welcome all gardeners to the new planting season in 2014.   I hope that it will be rewarding to all.  I can assure you that it is well worth the effort you put into it.  My expectations are that the present gardeners take this space to yet another level with me lending a hand where and when needed.

Read more about the Clifton Place Garden.

Westbrook Memorial Garden Creates a Mural and Builds Community

Murals. Live music. Food. Face painting. Dance. People. On September 7th, Westbrook Memorial Garden brought all of these elements together for an amazing event. Lead gardeners Terry Henry and Meg Fellerath, in partnership with Noelle Ghoussaini and 1242 pacific productions, organized a free celebration to mark the end of a successful garden season: a mural was created by neighbors of all ages, working alongside a visiting artist; live music featuring djembe and oud was played, with plenty of dancing to go along with it; children's faces were transformed by a face painter into spiders, flowers, and more; and delicious treats were cooked up by neighbors to share with each other. Brooklyn Queens Land Trust functioned as the fiscal conduit for Westbrook's community grant from Citizens Committee for NYC, helping the garden group to produce this special event with lasting effects. Now, when you’re traveling down Pacific Street between Bedford and Nostrand Avenues, take a peek into Westbrook, and where you once saw an unsightly wall at the back of the garden, you’ll now see a bright, colorful mural with the literal fingerprints of the community.

Top photo: Gardeners lend a hand to the mural

Tiny helpers at the Westbrook event

BQLT Takes the Nation

This year, BQLT has been honored to attend events and participate in the conversation about urban farming and land conservation around the nation.  At the American Community Garden Conference in Seattle, BQLT's Board President Demetrice Mills was appointed to ACGA's Board of Directors.  The American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) is a bi-national nonprofit membership organization of professionals, volunteers and supporters of community greening in urban and rural communities. The Association recognizes that community gardening improves people’s quality of life by providing a catalyst for neighborhood and community development, stimulating social interaction, encouraging self-reliance, beautifying neighborhoods, producing nutritious food, reducing family food budgets, conserving resources and creating opportunities for recreation, exercise, therapy and education.  This gives BQLT national exposure and allows us to share our commitment to gardening all over the world, getting back to the land, and defining what shape urban land can take.  Read more about ACGA.

BQLT Board members were also able to attend the Land Trust Alliance (LTA) 2013 Rally in New Orleans, giving BQLT the opportunity to network with Land Trusts across the nation, build relationships, and share ideas. LTA is a national conservation organization that works to save the places people love and has provided financial support as well as immeasurable advice and guidance to BQLT as we grow.  BQLT Board Members also hosted a workshop at the rally educating attendees about building bridges and creating community connections. BQLT Board Members also supported LTA at Lobby Day in Albany, NY and Advocacy Day in Washington, DC, educating our elected officials about the importance of land conservation for open space. Read more about

Top photo: Board President Demetrice Mills and ACGA Board President Bobby L. Wilson
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