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Location: Neighbors of Vega Baja Garden, 320 East 109th St., East Harlem, NYC 10029

Community Impact: With more than $15,000 in donations of in-kind materials and services, volunteers transformed a previously vacant lot adjacent to the Carter Burden Center for Aging, into a new, sustainable fruit and vegetable garden and community park for The Neighbors of Vega Baja Association in East Harlem, N.Y. The renovation will provide sustainable healthy food and environmental, economic, and social benefits to the Neighbors of Vega Baja residents.

“With more than half of the population living in urban areas, it’s critical that neighborhood parks and community gardens are available for the health benefits and social well-being of kids and adults,” said Cindy Code, executive director of Project EverGreen. “Additionally, green spaces in cities work to sequester carbon and create oxygen for those living in the community. Project EverGreen works collaboratively with individuals, businesses and like-minded groups to renovate and restore green spaces.”

The dedication of the renovated Neighbors of Vega Baja community garden took place on Saturday, May 20. The project was supported by a Con Edison community service grant, NYC Parks GreenThumb and local landscape and nursery industry professionals.

The Neighbors of Vega Baja community garden before the HTHK renovation.

The community garden—more than 40 years old—is named after the Puerto Rican hometown of numerous local residents, including the garden’s founder. Due to garden-adjacent construction, the garden had been mostly inactive for nearly a year before the first phase of the restoration last fall.

The first phase started with Brian Tauscher, owner of Artisan Gardens Landscape, donating gravel lining and topsoil to fill large planter boxes in place, applying a truckload of mulch to the open garden center area, and planting new apple trees, 30 hydrangeas and fruit-bearing bushes supplied by Plant Detectives, Inc.

The Neighbors of Vega Baja community garden after the HTHK project was completed.

Prior to dedication ceremony, 350 additional vegetables, herbs, and ornamental flowering shrubs (donated by Plant Detectives, Inc.) were planted by ConEd employee volunteers.

Project EverGreen’s Code was joined in the dedication ceremony by Carlos Martinez, deputy director, NYC Parks GreenThumb, East Harlem District Leader Johnny Rivera and ConEdison’s Walter Shay.

“Community gardens, such as this, changes the trajectory of knowledge and way of thinking,” said Carlos Martinez, deputy director, GreenThumb (NYC Parks). “For the kids of NYC, growing vegetables is a new experience. Our job is far from done.”

Project Scope:
12,000 sq. ft. of vacant land transformed into growing surface
Clean up and removal of debris
Installation of large planter boxes, and 20 yards of topsoil and mulch to an open garden center area
Planted new apple trees and 30 hydrangeas and fruit-bearing bushes
Vegetable bushes were planted in May 2017

Completion Date: October 2016/May 2017

Estimated Project Value: Over $15,000

Estimated Value of Volunteer Time: $5,100

Project Partners:
Artisan Gardens Landscape Construction
Consolidated Edison
Plant Detectives, Inc. Nursery and Garden Center
Kevin’s Tree Service, LLC
New York City Parks Green Thumb agency