BUSHWICK — A couple of city-owned lots in North Brooklyn have been spared from development and are slated to become community gardens after years of combined effort from neighborhood volunteers and open space advocates.
The lots at 9 Moffat St. in Bushwick and 375 S. Fifth St. in South Williamsburg were officially transferred to the Parks Department jurisdiction and will be overseen by the city's Greenthumb NYC program, according to emails sent to neighborhood organizers at each location last Friday.
"These are the ends of two campaigns that are actually really different; one was a campaign to get the city to follow through on a promise, the other was a public property that was nearly transformed into a private commodity," said Paula Segal, an organizer at 596 Acres, which advocates for increased green space across the city. "They've both ended in success on the same day."
The South Williamsburg lot had been promised to the community as an open space in 1992, as part of an urban renewal plan, according to a citywide interactive map compiled by 596 Acres through Freedom of Information Requests.
"It was not going to become [open space] until we got people in the neighborhood to demand it," Segal said.
South Williamsburg residents began organizing in 2012. Calling themselves The Gardeners of Hooper Street Park they gathered a coalition of around 40 neighbors, collecting signatures and letters of support from local nonprofits like Los Sures and Nuestros Niños, a nearby daycare, who said they would use the space to bring the children.
"At the moment it is filled with junk, weeds and rodents. But Gardeners of Hooper Street aim to turn it into a safe green space my students will love,” wrote Geraldine Haywood, a teacher at Nuestros Niños, in a 2014 letter of support. "A new garden in the neighborhood will supply yet another place for kids to learn and grow."
The Bushwick lot, on the other hand, narrowly missed being sold off to a private developer last year, according to community board minutes and District Manager Nadine Whitted.
"The city wanted to dispose of the property," said Whitted, who said the community board had voted down the proposal when it came before them last spring as part of a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which requires that the sale of city owned land go before the community. "[I wanted] to see the garden grow and become a nice garden. We need green spaces in neighborhood."
City Councilman Rafael Espinal also cautioned against the sale of the land, and workers at his office started to organize support for a garden there, said Celeste Leon, who leads community outreach. Their application, like the Williamsburg lot, was officially accepted Friday.
One resident, who'd been part of the effort to transform a blighted lot on her block, rejoiced at the news that the future of the Moffat Street garden is now secure.
"The lot has been an empty lot and collecting garbage," said Korie Enyard, 43, who moved into Bushwick two years ago from Prospect Heights. "Having the antithesis of that, something that's beautifying our living space is wonderful."
The Parks Department didn't respond to a request for comment.