Monday, March 30, 2015

Cyclista Ride #5: Seed Bombs and Community Gardens Under Threat /Gardens are Futures of Cities

I have always loved community bike rides and seed bombs. 

The future of the world depends on seed bombs, giving something back to the soil from which we have been given and taken so much.

Seed bombs in action. Photo by Chris Johnson. 

At least, many of us seemed to think so Saturday as we threw them at various vacant lots throughout Brooklyn during the majestic Cyclista ride.  The plan was simple.  The call for the ride noted:

Meet under the arch at Grand Army Plaza across the street from the Farmer's Market. 

A Dance Bike Ride for all women-identifying people and friends to celebrate NYC's gardens which are under attack and to encourage more open public spaces and dancing in all spaces!
Meet early at Grand Army Plaza, load up with seed bombs, grab a snack at the Farmer's Market and then we'll ride! Ride leaves promptly at 2:15pm.

Let's ride bikes in our fifth annual Cyclista ride to support a clean sustainable environment, healthy bodies and empowering ourselves through bike power!

We will explore the historic neighborhoods of Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Bed-Stuy, Clinton Hill and Fort Greene to visit gardens and stop at some empty lots along the way to throw home-made seed bombs to encourage more greenery in our city and we will definitely make some dancing stops!
Ride ends at Red Lantern Bicycles between 4:30 and 5pm.

Now including:
Group choreography Bicycle dance led by NYBD (New York Bike Dance)! 

Women- identifying, trans, queer, men everyone welcome!
Dress in your best Ishtar goddess bonnet or mohawk or ball gown or short shorts or kilt or whatever makes you feel fabulous and be you!

This year’s cyclista ride would have a community gardens theme noted Monica, who helped organize the ride, pointing out the gardens are, once again, under threat.

So we’d bring seed bombs and  consciousness raising to the streets. This was not our first seed bomb ride.   I have a vivid memory of Monica leading us on a cold February ride with the Occupy Wall Street Sustainably Committee, collaborating with several garden and cycling groups.  We rode from Zuccotti Park up through some vacant lots throughout the Lower East Side.  Borrowing a page from the Green Guerillas.  We spent the ride throwing Seed Bombs into the lots.  Falling, each seed clashed on the ground, colliding with the dirt while laying the groundwork for a new community garden and by extension a different way of looking at the world.  Each offered a new possibly for a spring which just might sprout something wonderful.  Taking part, we were all invited to see urban lots as green spaces and the city as a sustainable space capable of regenerating itself.  Of course, many of these seeds were dislodged from their roots and the earth the following fall when the waves of Hurricane Sandy crashed over the shore. 

So we met at Grand Army Plaza, greeting riders from New York Bike Dance, as well environmental activists, etc.

After everyone had arrived, Monica welcomed everyone and reminded us why we were here.  The gardens are under attack, she explained, noting that 17 plots face extinction to make way for  displacing development giveaways, as a part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s housing program. 

Anna followed noting that the ride was also about women. And March is women’s history month.   Yet, we’re all women every other month and day of the year, she explained. So, lets remember, ride and celebrate that every day. 

 Today, hopefully we are all feminists.  

We took off, riding through a rapidly transforming Brooklyn, visiting garden after garden under threat.

Just as we started, we stopped at a lonely vacant lot to throw seed bombs, screaming, "Stop, go, grow!" as we hurled them through the air  into this space that looked like it needed love.

Our first stop was at Roger That Community Garden at the Corner of Rogers Ave and Park Place in Crown Heights Brooklyn. 

Emily welcomed us to the garden, putting on a gardening workshop for some local girl scouts, teaching them about their garden.

 “Welcome to Roger That Garden,” she explained, telling us about her garden. “Our garden is under threat.  So we need you to call Roger Corgney and ask that the garden be saved.” 

Roger that has a petition everyone can sign as well as steps one can take to save the garden.  The current owner has been missing in action from the lot since the early 1980’s.  The Department of Finance for the City has no info on the owner, yet apparently the space has been sold.  “They got the garden for no money," noted Emily. "How did they get the deed?  There is something fishy going on here.  Call Roger Corgney and Tish James.  Tell them this garden is important to all of us.”

In 2006, this was a derelict space, attached a crumbling building at the corner that eventually came down.  The Crown Heights Youth Collective, who had been supporting cleaning other lots, cleaned this space.  A vibrant community mural was posted on a building remaining. The group named the space and started organizing the garden there in 2011.

The garden's website notes:

Roger That is a community garden located at Rogers Ave and Park Place, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. We steward native plants, collectively cultivate edibles, and maintain a community compost system. We’re always open to new members and we want you to get involved!

Our land is currently under direct threat of development, and we are fighting to save it. We have a good chance of facilitating a transfer of the deed to a land trust, preserving the garden as permanent green space. But a tremendous amount of fundraising, negotiating, and organizing remains to be done!
Emily joined the garden after all others she wanted to join were full or had waiting lists for plots.  “We started this space to be communal,” she explained.  They wanted the space to be open for all people and living creatures in the neighborhood.  “We have nice tulips and other native plants here.  75% of the plants here are native.” 

She pointed at the raised beds and perennials and the birds flying nearby.

Standing by our sign declaring: “Gardens are the Future of Cities,” we asked Emily why this garden was so important for NYC.

Gardens are the future of cities at Roger That. Photo by Monica. 

“This is a learning space,” she explained, gesturing to the kids working there.  “It is a space for food pollinators. We retain rain water.  We help kids learn about science and the environment.  It is a safe place to hang out.  We  are preventing flooding and training science educators.  If we do not have real places to interact and hang out, its just going to be shopping malls here.  We need real open space here.”

The Crown Heights Girl Scouts had a message for the City. Save the Garden. 

Emily thanked the group.  We thanked her and rode to several other gardens, including Mama Dee's.

 We zipped around the borough reveling in the creative ways regular people have refashioned their streets, planning gardens, setting up their own composting system, and creating spaces where people can grow community and food.

Our next stop was Hollenback Community Garden, where we got a tour.

We rode down Fulton taking in the graffiti, gardens and murals along the way, reveling in the sights of this ever transforming space, with art teeming from the streets.

After the ride, the New York Bike Dance posted a note.

Thank you to everyone who came out to the ride today! We had an amazing time! The sun got brighter and brighter as we went. We heard about how to help save Roger That! Garden and watched Girl scouts plant the surprisingly hardy pansies in the flower beds, threw seed bombs in some sad vacant lots along the way, got a tour of Hollenback Community Garden, checked on the chickens of Greene Acres, ate tacos at Myrtle Village Green and toasted gardens at Red Lantern Bicycles! Can't wait til warmer weather so we can do it again with tons of people! More photos on the way.

This was a theme we explored all weekend long.  We talked about it at Judson, memorializing parts of a world we'd hate to loose to climate chaos, reflecting on the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, wondering through the East Village the following day, taking more energy from the streets as we surveyed the remains of Liz Christie Community Garden along Houston, some of the murals along the Bowery, and the people hoping to pull their city back together on Seventh Street and Second Ave.  New York is a meditation in change, with streets smoldering, shifting, crumbling, gardens and buildings ascending, altering shape, taking in energy, flooding, rising and falling all around us.

While the city still pulses, shopping space seems to be encroaching upon community space,  There are countless other gardens and community spaces in New York that are in danger.

According to 596 Acres there are some 17 other gardens in danger and under threat of development.  April 18th, we’ll ride to visit a few of these gardens and celebrate what they add to New York City, ending in a BBQ.  A few of these include:

  • Harlem Valley
  • Jackie Robinson Community Garden
  • Harlem Grown - Greenhouse
  • Electric Ladybug Community Garden
  • Pleasant Village Community Garden
  • McKinley's Children's Garden

  • Isabahliah Ladies of Elegance
  • La Casita Verde
  • Halsey, Ralph & Howard Community Garden
  • EL Garden
  • Patchen Community Square
  • 462 Halsey Community Garden
  • Tranquility Farm
  • Brownsville Student Farm
  • Imani Garden
  • New Harvest Community Garden
  • Green Valley Communtiy Garden and Farmers Market