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Local Businessman Concerned Community Garden Could Attract Rats and Vermin

RED HOOK — A local businessman is concerned that a proposed community garden could bring vermin to the area.

Roger Rigolli, who owns a herb and tea-packing factory on Woodhull Street, said that growing fruits and vegetables in the proposed garden would attract rats and opossums to the block.

The lot, now barren of any greenery, used to be filled with tall grass which attracted infestation, said Rigolli, who would often see rats scurrying between the weeds.

“It’s going to start all over again,” he said.

Rigolli, who owns Blue Ridge Tea & Herb Co., Ltd., specializing in private label tea bags, as well as packaging and supply of herbs and a variety of tea, said the rats would often damage his products.

After the weeds and grass were removed, the rat-problem subsided, he said.

Last week, the proposed garden at 313 Columbia St., received unanimous support from Community Board 6’s Parks and Recreation committee. The project has also received support from GreenThumb, a Parks Department program that supports over 500 community gardens.

GreenThumb did not immediately respond to inquiries on community garden infestation.

In the Columbia Waterfront District, there are several other community gardens, like the Amazing Garden and the Human Compass Garden on Columbia Street and the Backyard Gardens at Hamilton Avenue and Van Brunt Street.

The lot, owned by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, has been empty for at least five years, one of the organizers said.

Rigolli said he had also put in requests to purchase the vacant lot from the department so he could expand his factory building and add offices and apartments to the upper floors.

While the organizers have received support from the Parks and Recreation Committee, the proposal still has to be approved by Community Board 6.

If approved, the organizers plan to begin work on the garden within the next month.

Rigolli said he plans to oppose to garden during the general meeting on April 10.

“Enough with these community gardens,” he said.