Project EverGreen, through its GreenCare for Communities initiative, has fostered a seven-year partnership with NYC Parks GreenThumb on multiple projects.
“Now more than ever green spaces are important. Getting people out of their apartments and into fresh air. To provide a respite from the heat and congestion of the city, and grow their own food and be able to touch it and feel it. Most people never had opportunity to pick a tomato off a plant and eat it.”
Ridgewood, New Jersey
New York City has long recognized the proven benefits of community gardens. And through NYC Parks Green Thumb, the country’s largest community gardening program with more than 550 spaces throughout the five boroughs, it coordinates resources to maintain, improve and build new gardens and urban green spaces throughout the city.
Like many cities, the need far outpaces available local resources, particularly during the pandemic. That’s where Project EverGreen comes in. Through its collaborative ability to bring people together – local businesses, grantors, professional contractors and individuals – local park and garden projects have a far greater success and sustainability going forward.
Project EverGreen, through its GreenCare for Communities initiative, has fostered a seven-year partnership with NYC Parks GreenThumb and has coordinated projects like the Neighbors of Vega Baja Garden in East Harlem and the Clinton Community Garden on the Lower East Side; as well as two during the pandemic in 2020 – the Carolina and Jackie Robinson Community Gardens.
Brian Tauscher, president of Artisan Gardens, a landscape design and construction firm in Ridgewood, NJ, has been an enthusiastic participant in Project EverGreen since his first experience in 2014. He learned about Project Evergreen through an industry friend, who invited him to participate in the revitalization of Liberty Island’s 9/11 memorial garden that was damaged during Hurricane Sandy.
“We’re more than happy to help revitalize these gardens and provide something we’re good at and the community needs. With everyone stuck inside, these gardens are even more important than before to keep people’s spirits up and engaged with neighbors and friends,” says Tauscher.
Tauscher was hooked following the Liberty Island project, finding deep enjoyment in pitching in and helping communities that don’t have the means to do these sorts of projects on their own. “If you have the means to give back or share in an area that you have knowledge in, you’re almost obligated to do so. It’s a good way to live.”
The pandemic has served to slow the pace of people and traffic in the big city. But two key landscape construction skills – advance planning and logistics management – have proven as essential for community garden projects as the actual work on site.
“Once the work starts, it’s easy,” says Tauscher. “But projects must be pre-planned well – there’s the parking and offloading materials challenges, and there there’s also no running to Home Depot to get a tool you forgot.”
But the many hands and minds involved allow Tauscher to bring his full talents to the fore. “One group could not do it all on their own, “he explains. “NYC Parks are the liaison to residents, who must be involved for projects to be sustainable. Project EverGreen coordinates and brings in the professionals to make it happen and carry the ball over the goal line.”
In the end, it’s the benefits to the communities that make being involved in these projects so incredibly rewarding for Tauscher.
“Now more than ever green spaces are important,” he says. “Getting people out of their apartments and into fresh air. To provide a respite from the heat and congestion of the city, and grow their own food and be able to touch it and feel it. Most people never had opportunity to pick a tomato off a plant and eat it.
“(Through) Project EverGreen we create these urban gardens, with fresh fruit and vegetables – there is pride in that,” he continues. “The social aspects are important. When you’re in the gardens you are transformed – it provides a little escape. It has a big impact for neighborhoods, and they are grateful for what is done. Project EverGreen is investing in these neighborhoods, and that means a lot.”
Personally, says Tauscher, “it makes you feel good, helping a neighborhood thrive and flourish. It is a lot of time, effort, and money, but in the end you feel good. You get to meet the community and get to know them. That doesn’t happen much when working with most commercial clients — it is very gratifying.”