Vacant Lot on Columbia Street to Become a Children's Garden

By Heather Holland on August 22, 2012 9:17am 

COLUMBIA WATERFRONT DISTRICT — An empty lot on Columbia Street will be transformed into a garden for children to learn and play in by next year, thanks to members of the South Brooklyn Children’s Garden, who helped start re-purposing the lot Saturday.

Once completed, the garden, located at the corner of Sackett and Columbia Streets, will serve as a backdrop for a range of educational programs for neighborhood children and local schools, said state Sen. Daniel Squadron, who worked with the SBCG and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to secure the new space for the garden.

Children will learn about gardening, plants and composting, and they'll be able to participate in planting seeds, transplanting seeds, turning the compost and watering plants. Expected programs include a bug club, a harvest festival and even chicken feeding and egg collecting.

Pet chickens are expected to arrive at the garden next spring.

“The focus will be on children learning how to grow plants, what makes them healthy and how it supports the local ecosystem and environment,” Squadron said.

On Saturday, members of the SBCG worked with children from the community to plant cauliflower, broccoli, kale, chard and lettuce. Members also built 10 raised beds plus a perimeter bed along the north, east and southern edges. By next weekend, the group hopes to complete the “worm house” for vermicomposting, along with a three-box composter.

By next year’s growing season, the garden is expected to yield a variety of vegetable types, including arugula, beets, carrots, radishes, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and peas. The space will also utilize rainwater harvesting.

The neighborhood is already home to several small community gardens, but many do not have the space to support vegetable plants, said Margaret Cusack, president of the Hoyt Street Association.

“I think any amount of greenspace that can be pumped into the neighborhood is great,” Cusack said. “We have a severe lack of green space in this area, compared to the rest of the city or the rest of the state.”

In the past, the vacant lot was overgrown and crawling with rodents, Carroll Gardens resident Brian McCormick said.

"The transformations seemingly happened over night," said McCormick, who is also the co-founder of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. "I think it's wonderful to see a local entity opening up the space for the community, particularly for the children. There's a lot of children in the neighborhood, and it's always growing.

"In the past, the most activity I've seen there were city representatives occasionally going in to set up rodent traps or trim weeds that had overgrown. I'm very happy that educational activity for the children will be happening there now."

The SBCG is accepting donations of garden tools, including rakes, shovels, trowels, wheel barrows, soil, and garden hoses. To donate, contact info.sbcg@gmail.com.

For more information, visit sites.google.com/site/southbrooklynchildrensgarden.

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