BUSHWICK — The fate of a beloved community garden on Eldert Street hangs in the balance, but its caretakers are betting on its survival.
The land at 315 Eldert St. was mysteriously sold to new owners last year, and while locals worry the move threatens to uproot the Eldert Street Community Garden that currently calls the lot home, volunteers of the garden are raising funds for an expansion, according to its founders.
The volunteers hope to raise $1,500 for materials to build more raised beds that neighbors can rent for $25 a year, as well as to fix up a deteriorating shed and smooth out a jagged rock path, among other tasks to begin this spring, said Kim Anderson, 28, one of the garden's founders.
But the work isn't just cosmetic, she said.
"It's the absolute best chance that we have to preserve the garden," said Anderson, a musician and landscaper who has lived in Bushwick since 2007 and helped found the garden seven years ago.
The Eldert Street Garden was sold out from under them in January 2015, in a deal that is now being investigated by the state Attorney General's office, according to court documents.
The garden was owned by a nonprofit called Alianza de Damas Unidas de Brooklyn, which had given the Eldert Street Community Garden permission to use the property, according to an affidavit signed by the organization's president Heriberto Mateo.
But the mysterious $300,000 sale of the property was authorized by a woman named Elba Roman, who is no longer on the organization's board of directors, according to documents from the Attorney General's office.
The sale and the investigation was first reported by Gothamist.
"She'd left many many years before," said Mateo, who'd become a member of the organization in the late '90s.
In his signed court documents and when reached by phone on Wednesday, Mateo said that the organization had never authorized the sale of the property.
"I don't understand," Mateo said in Spanish. "I don't understand how they could do that."
The sale should have had to be pre-approved by the attorney general's office because the land is owned by a charity, according to court papers.
While the attorney general's investigation has bought community garden members some time, they'll still have to come up with a permanent solution to protect the garden, for instance, by transferring it to the Park's Department or working with a community land trust to secure rights to the property, Anderson said.
This spring, the 20-plus neighbors and volunteers are working to beautify the garden to make it more attractive for a potential transfer to the Parks Department, Anderson said.
"Half of that block is for sale...there's construction left and right...And the garden is like the exact opposite of that," she said. "We're doing something together for no money, and the currency is just space, it's just beautiful space and communal space."
The state Attorney General's office did not immediately respond to request for a status on its investigation into the garden's sale.
Starting in May the Eldert Street Community Garden will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.