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At Bronx Urban Garden, Fresh Produce Grows With Flows

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Residents of one Bronx neighborhood now have a new place to get fresh fruits and vegetables. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.

Behind a group of residential buildings on Kelly Street in the Longwood section of the Bronx there is an oasis. It's an urban garden where a variety of fruits and vegetables are growing. But it wasn't always like that.

"It was a mess. There was a lot of rubble, a lot of, man just terrible," said Robert Foster, a Kelly Street resident.

The garden is now in the final phase of the rehabilitation of five buildings on the block. They fell into disrepair in the 1990s and stayed that way until 2011. That's when developers Workforce Housing Group teamed with South Bronx community development corporation Banana Kelly to renovate the 70 units of affordable housing.

"When you see it like this, every time I come down here I'm more amazed because it's just really beautiful," said Banana Kelly President Harry DeRienzo.

Through a grant from the city's Department of Environmental Protection, so-called green infrastructure was also installed here. Under the gravel and "permeable pavers" are 10 inches of materials that can soak up as much as 13,000 gallons of water each time it rains, keeping more than 250,000 gallons out of the sewer system each year.

"Every single time it rains the water is being drawn to the bottom, to make sure that it's not going into the combined sewer system and contributing to pollution in our waterways," said DEP Project Manager Mikella Adgate.

A green roof to soak up even more rain is planned for the top of one of the buildings. Rainwater is being captured on the roofs of two others, ending up in barrels. It can then be reused to irrigate the garden, which has already become a community gathering place.

"Giving people the opportunity to have public space, work together to build community," DeRienzo said.

The idea sounds great to Robert Foster, who is known as the mayor of the block.

"This is heavenly. This is the Garden of Eden, Garden of Kelly Street. This is really nice," Foster said.

The DEP has $6 million available for private property owners to install green infrastructure. To apply, just head to nyc.gov/dep.

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