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Overgrown Queens Wasteland Transformed into Vibrant Garden

 Locals will grow tomatoes, eggplants and other vegetables in their newly renovated garden.
Residents Transform Neglected Lot in Jamaica into Community Garden
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QUEENS — An overgrown lot which for decades has been home to little more than weeds and trash is now being transformed into a vegetable garden which will serve Jamaica residents.

The lot at South Jamaica Houses, near 159th Street and 107th Avenue, was initially used as a garden when the housing was built there in the 1950s.

But over the years it fell into disrepair, as local residents said they had no tools or resources to maintain it. Only a small portion of the space was utilized by a group of dedicated self-taught gardeners.

But now, after New York Restoration Project, a non-profit working on reviving gardens and parks, teamed up with South Jamaica Houses residents, garden beds filled with soil and compost replaced overgrown grass and garbage and will soon be crammed with tomatoes, collard greens, cabbage, carrots and eggplants, residents said.

“This space used to be just an overgrown lot where we could only use a small portion of it for gardening,” said Marian Dolphus, 84.

“But after we’re done here, we’ll have double the gardening space and a whole new area to have community events like children’s birthday parties."

The New York City Housing Authority worked with the group of residents to fill out an application for a New York Restoration Project grant which provided materials and helped locals revive the garden.

Trissamae Johnson, 69, who moved to New York from Honolulu in 1991, named her plot “Hawaiian Kitchen Garden.”  

“I was raised in Hawaii on a farm,” she said, adding that growing her own vegetables allows her to control what goes into her food. Vegetables from the garden, she said, are also fresh and “you can get more nutrients out of them.”

She was also excited that local children will get a chance to learn about gardening.

“The kids should know more about vegetables, how they grow and where they come from,” she said.

The garden is one of several projects that NYRP has recently worked on with NYCHA residents in under-resourced neighborhoods, the organization said. The group also created community gardens at Marcy and Amsterdam houses.

NYRP said they hope the project will have a positive impact on the neighborhood, which is sometimes called “a food desert” because access to healthy food is scarce.

“Agriculture in the city is very hot right now,” noted Jason Sheets of NYRP. “People want to grow their own produce and know where it’s coming from.”