Community groups applied for the grants via the city’s new Change by Us NYC website, nyc.changeby.us, which was launched in July. The site enables New Yorkers to connect with each other and with city government to create projects for improving their neighborhoods.
The grants were awarded by the Citizens Committee for New York City to support projects in three categories: community gardening and agriculture; composting; and tree and park stewardship – some of the focus areas outlined in PlaNYC, Bloomberg’s sustainability outline.
“Change by Us NYC has given the city a way to interact with and support many community groups and civic-minded New Yorkers in all five boroughs,” said Bloomberg. “From planting new gardens to growing sustainable food, these projects will help make New York City greener and greater.”
Citizens United for Railroad and Environmental Solutions (CURES) and the Glendale Civic Association received a $1,000 grant to transform neglected property along the railroad corridor at Edsall Avenue, between 71st and 73rd Place in Glendale, into a new community garden.
The revitalization project began on October 1 with 28 local volunteers cleaning out the brush, and should be completed by the end of the month.
“We’re asking merchants for stone, gravel, plants and a wheeled water tank and thankfully the community is taking ownership to clean up the mess that has been here for years,” said Mary Parisen, co-chair of CURES.
However, with only one catch basin on the site, poor drainage and flooding is an obstacle, she said. Also, muddy pools are a breading ground for mosquitoes, she added, noting that there were two West Nile virus cases reported in Glendale.
Katy Masi, president of the Glendale Civic Association, said, “we’re working hard on the clean-up, but we can’t plant flowers because so much water will flush everything away.”
She said that a letter was sent via Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley’s office to the Department of Environmental Protection asking that an additional catch basin or other remedial measures be taken.
Ruth Wagner, of the Glendale Civic Association, gathered grant petitions and, with her family, helped clean up the site.
“When we’re done, we want the [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] to clean up their side of the fence,” she said.
Bushwick City Farms also received a grant to transform a vacant lot located at a housing project on Stagg Street into a community farm that will serve neighborhood residents, providing a open space and free organic food.
Masha Radzinsky, founder and director, said a volunteer alerted her to the Change website. The Farms were awarded $900.
“The grant will help us buy top soil, compost, hardware and linseed oil to start the new farm,” she said.
The all-volunteer Bushwick City Farms is a network of open spaces for responsible food production that provides free food, clothing and educational programs for the community.
“In addition to the main farms,” Radzinsky said, “we build and help maintain vegetable gardens for the public schools, host school field trips and youth service groups, hold free ESL classes, and coordinate with local businesses to distribute donated bread and fresh produce.”