LONG ISLAND CITY — A community garden that blooms on top of former railroad tracks in a gritty stretch of Long Island City has undergone a growth spurt.
LIC Roots Community Garden, at 29-08 47th Ave., expanded this spring with a new wing that now includes a beehive, a rainwater harvesting system and more raised beds to grow fresh herbs and vegetables.
"The extension can enable more students to learn about gardening, and for more of the community members to have their own plots," said Gerard Lordahl, greening director for GrowNYC which partners with LIC Roots.
The expansion, celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, was built by GrowNYC and funded by the Northstar Fund and Assemblywoman Kathy Nolan.
"Now we have some elbow room — we have more gardeners able to do their recreational gardening. It looks good," said Noah Kaufman, who works nearby and is one of the garden's founders.
LIC Roots was first formed at another nearby location in 2002 to serve as a 9/11 memorial garden in honor of Firefighter Michael E. Brennan, a native of Sunnyside, Queens, who was killed in the World Trade Center attacks.
The garden was uprooted after the owner of the original property gave it the boot. So in 2004, the gardeners asked the MTA for permission to fill in a section of unused railroad tracks on 47th Avenue, part of the former Degnon Terminal Railroad.
They built the new garden there, in a space Kaufman described as "an actual pile of garbage before we got there."
"It’s a very industrial neighborhood," he said, which makes LIC Roots an even more important asset in the area.
"Western Queens is one of the most underserved communities in the city of New York — we have five high schools adjacent to our community, and there's not one ball field or recreational facility."
LIC Roots is open everyday to the public from dawn until dusk, and is a popular lunchtime spot with office workers in the area and students and staff from nearby LaGuardia Community College.
"We know how important community gardens are for people in the concrete jungle," Kaufman said. "You need a place."