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Abandoned Playground on 127th Street to Become Community Garden

By Gustavo Solis | September 3, 2015 11:41am
 The abandoned playground is set to become a community garden.
127th Street Garden
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HARLEM — An abandoned playground on 127th Street is set to come back to life as a community garden.

Harlem Grown, a nonprofit that converts vacant lots into working gardens, signed a lease to take over the space from its current owners the Abyssinian Development Corporation.

The lot shut down about eight years ago because of a sinkhole under one of the playgrounds. It remained empty, gathering trash and becoming home to raccoons ever since, neighbors said.

“When I moved here 11 years ago it was just a neighborhood park,” said Kathy Smith, 55. “They closed the park in 2007 and we’ve been working to get the park open again since 2010.”

Tony Hillery, the founder of Harlem Grown, estimates that it will cost around $400,000 to strip the lot of old playground equipment, fix the hole, replace the fence and create a new garden.

“There is so much space here, it’s like a blank canvas,” he said.

The garden on 127th Street will be similar to one the group has on 134th Street. There will be planters around the perimeter, fruit trees near the center, a composting station, and an open space in the middle for community events, he said.

“We have twice as much sun [compared to 134th Street] so we should have twice as much produce,” he said. “We are going to start working immediately.”

For Smith, this is a significant victory in the block’s struggle to restore the vacant lot. The neighborhood, which used to be predominantly working class black, has diversified both in race and social class, she said.

“I feel like the park is a place where we can come together,” she said.

“It feels fantastic, the ideas that Harlem Grown has are really great because more than anything what this block needs is a binding.”