Willis Avenue Community Garden Gets Facelift

By Eddie Small on July 23, 2014 8:44am 

 The new casita at the Willis Avenue Community Garden.
The new casita at the Willis Avenue Community Garden.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

SOUTH BRONX — The Willis Avenue Community Garden just got a facelift.

The greenspace, at 378 Willis Ave., and one of the New York Restoration Project's gardens, is now home to a new steel picket fence, rebuilt garden beds and a rebuilt shelter, the centerpiece of the renovations.

“There was an existing casita on the site that was much smaller and not in great condition, so we rebuilt the structure,” said Yvi McEvilly, director of design at the NYRP.

The shelter, called a casita, is meant to serve as a gathering spot for social activities like concerts or dominoes and is made up of three 12-foot sections, meaning its shape can be altered depending on what the community needs it for.

“We thought about it kind of like a kit of Legos,” McEvilly said, adding that it was "more open and inviting and hopefully more welcoming" than the previous one.

Construction began in March of this year and was completed in May.

NYRP still hopes to install WiFi and solar panels on the roof of the casita, which would power USB ports where people can come to charge their cell phones or laptops, helping the garden cater to younger and older generations.

"We’re currently seeking funding to do that," said McEvilly, "so as soon as we have that in place, we can start, hopefully in the next year."

The solar panels are also meant to build up the garden as a place for people to go during emergencies when the power goes out to charge electronics or reconnect with neighbors.

The Willis Avenue Community Garden will host multiple events this summer as part of a partnership between the Bronx Museum and NYRP. The Arts in the Gardens program will include a hip-hop concert at Willis on Saturday, Aug. 2 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. and two film screenings at sunset on Wednesday, Aug.13 and Wednesday, Aug. 27.

MORE INFORMATION ON SUMMER ACTIVITIES IN THE BRONX:

Bronx Gardens to Feature Hip-Hop, Films and More This Summer

Best Places for You to Barbecue and Picnic in The Bronx

How You Can Spend a Fun Summer Day In the Bronx

Jose Robles, who has a garden at Willis Avenue for the first time this year, enjoyed its new look, referring to the green space as "more beautiful" than before.

Nivia Cruz, who lives nearby and has had a garden at Willis Avenue for about four years where she plants everything from eggplant to cilantro, was also happy with the area's new look, describing it as newer, cleaner and nicer than it used to be.

"Everything is better than before," she said.

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