Gardens at NYCHA Housing Complex Take Off After Hurricane Sandy

It may be fall but efforts to help a Queens garden are flourishing and in a part of the borough known for its sand and surf. NY1's Angi Gonzalez has more on how the clean up after Hurricane Sandy became a real turning point for the space. 

In a city where space comes at a premium, a small garden in Edgemere is a little piece of heaven for Tina Marie Evans.

"When I come out here it gives me piece of mind," said Evans, a resident of NYCHA’s Beach 41st Street Houses.

Behind the housing complex, NYCHA has made a piece of land available for residents who like to garden.  

“Its eases your mind, gets your mind off things. It’s like you own a farm,” explained Mary Jackson, another NYCHA resident with a garden plot at the Beach 41st Street Houses.

The garden plots have been available for more than 30 years, but it wasn’t until after Hurricane Sandy that people became passionate about the area.

"In terms of disaster, there is some trauma that is enacted on people and so having an open green space like this, I think gives people an opportunity for peace and contemplation, reflection, " said Renae Reynolds, who is a project coordinator at the NYC Urban Field Station.

The Urban Field Station is one of several organizations that have come together, following Hurricane Sandy, to help residents with their gardening plots.

The role of the garden, in community healing, was not immediate.

Following the storm, the gardens were closed for a year.

One of the hurdles in getting gardeners back into the plots was testing the soil.

The area was flooded by both bay and ocean water during Hurricane Sandy and residents often eat what they grow in their garden.

"They don’t have a farmers market like they do in other boroughs, so the fact that they get to grow their own products and see the results of their hard work and labor is great for them," said Nikki Johnson, a NYCHA community coordinator who works on “green” projects.

To ensure the gardens would return to the housing complex, NYCHA also fostered partnerships with the TKF Foundation, NYC Urban Field Station and Till Design, a landscape architecture firm.

This support system for NYCHA residents helps them with their own green projects and has helped make the area around the gardens more resilient to any future flooding.  

"By sort of elevating the grading, putting in all this vegetation it absorbs the water and keeps the space open an accessible throughout the seasons,” explained Reynolds.

Measures taken to ensure the green space and the gardens will be around for future generations to enjoy.

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