Culture / Parks

Community garden opens in Longwood

Sonia Colón

Executive Director of New York Restoration Project Deborah Marton
at the Paradise Garden.

After a year of labor, the Paradise Garden, located across from Public School 150, is now open to the public thanks to the work of the New York Restoration Project.

The Paradise Garden on 1106 Fox St. is now a lush area covered in fresh grass and surrounded by tall trees. The corners of the garden are speckled with red and green plants which stick up proudly out of the brown mulch, as well as there are extra flower beds for the community to start growing their own plants.

The center of the garden has a large wooden platform with a tree at its center, giving it shade, as well as a wooden stage at the end of the garden which can be used for theatrical and musical performances.

Before the group renovated the empty lot, residents of the neighborhood remember it being something of a denigrated farm.

“It had chickens and roosters running all over it, it was really run-down,” said Christopher Gilliard, 32, whose children attend PS 150. Gilliard said he is excited about his children having a place to play after school. “It’s going to be great to have a community garden where the kids from the school can enjoy it as well as the kids from the community.”

The opening of the Paradise Garden was celebrated on June 7 with food catered by City Tamale, who served elote, burritos and fruit flavored slushies, and live bachata music provided by the South Bronx Culture Trail, Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education and the restoration project.

As part of their Somos Unidos (We Are United) initiative, which will run through June 23, Casita Maria aims to bring the community together through the sharing of cultural events.

The live band played for the crowd of young families whose children ran in the fresh-cut grass, playing with blue and green balloons. New York Restoration Project volunteers taught children how to pot plants in the hope that they would take a new love of gardening home with them. The children painted their new plant pots and wrote their names on them, and showed them off to their parents and friends.

Norma Sanchez, principal of PS 150, was especially happy to see the project finished, and plans on incorporating it into the lives of the students.

“Our kids are definitely going to be enjoying this, not only with their families but also with the teachers in the building,” says Principal Sanchez. “We actually have our own beds that we’ll be planting with the kids during and throughout the year, so we’re definitely excited about this. What a difference in our community.”

Deborah Marton, the executive director of the New York Restoration Project, spoke about her own experience as a child and what it meant to her to bring a garden to Longwood.

“I spent my whole life trying to get to the point where I could help people who were the children of immigrants like me,” said Marton. “It means everything to me. That’s why I do this work.”

Information for the rest of the South Bronx Culture Trail can be found at the Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education website.

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