East Harlem, NYC

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

Project EverGreen - Neighbors of Vega Baja

Completion Date

October 2016/May 2017

Project EverGreen - Neighbors of Vega Baja

Estimated Project Value

Over $15,000

Project EverGreen - Neighbors of Vega Baja

Estimated Value of Volunteer Time


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.

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“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 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.

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

Why Are Green Spaces Important to New York City

Green spaces are important to New York City residents for several reasons:

Environmental Benefits: Green spaces help to mitigate the urban heat island effect, reduce air pollution, and provide habitats for wildlife. They also help to reduce stormwater runoff and prevent flooding.

Health Benefits: Access to green spaces has been shown to improve mental health, reduce stress, and promote physical activity. In a city like New York, where many residents live in areas with limited access to fresh food and safe outdoor spaces, green spaces can provide important opportunities for exercise and recreation.

Social Benefits: Green spaces provide a gathering place for community events and activities, fostering a sense of community and social cohesion. They also provide opportunities for volunteerism and community engagement.

Economic Benefits: Green spaces can increase property values and attract businesses, tourists, and new residents to the area. This can lead to increased economic activity and job creation.

In New York City, the availability of green spaces varies widely by neighborhood, with some areas having more parks and greenways than others. As a result, there has been a push to increase access to green spaces in underserved communities, through initiatives such as the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Parks and the Parks Without Borders program. These initiatives aim to improve the quality of life for all New York City residents by increasing access to green spaces and promoting a healthier and more sustainable city.

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

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