Project EverGreen’s GreenCare for Communities initiative has been working to revitalize community green spaces since 2008. One of their focuses has been partnering with NYC Parks GreenThumb to restore various community gardens throughout New York City and five boroughs that are in need of renovation.
“Project EverGreen’s goal is to increase the healthy greenspace footprint in NYC, and to reduce the heat island effect prevalent in urban areas like NYC,” says Cindy Code, executive director of Project EverGreen. “Healthy parks not only function as the lungs of the city – taking in carbon and producing clean air – they provide numerous other benefits for neighborhood residents.”
Some of these other benefits include relief from the heat, reduced rainfall runoff, increased access to community gathering spaces, and the ability to grow fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Our goal is for the projects to put a spotlight on the value of parks and gardens, no matter the size of the space,” Code says. “Not only for the benefits mentioned earlier but for the overall goal of connecting people, plants and trees to work together to counteract climate change. A single tree can remove 26 lbs. of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually and that’s why Project EverGreen is committed to the GreenCare for Communities initiative in NYC and across the country.”
Project EverGreen’s most recent community garden project was at Bradhurst Garden in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of Harlem. The project included excavating for a new walkway, installing pavers to create a new accessible path, pruning trees, installing perennials and shrubs and re-installing diamond grid throughout the garden.
Code says they work closely with NYC Parks GreenThumb to identify gardens in the greatest need of renovation.
“Gardens that haven’t been updated or have become inaccessible are often top of the list,” Code says. “These are gardens that GreenThumb doesn’t have the expertise to complete. Renovating garden entryways and pathways with pavers or diamond grid are two common needs that require a professional’s talents to complete.”
Project EverGreen has a team of NYC area contractors who help complete these projects. Code says word of mouth brings in new volunteers looking to lend their talents. Meanwhile, corporate donors encourage their employees to volunteer. Neighborhood residents also participate in the projects.
Brian Tauscher, owner of Artisan Gardens, a regional full-service landscape company based in Ridgewood, New Jersey, has helped with several of the NYC community garden projects.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Tauscher says. “We have the skill and resources, and we owe it to the city’s residents to provide healthy, cooler areas that provide a respite from the city’s traffic and heat.”
Project EverGreen has been improving NYC’s community gardens since 2014 when they revitalized the 9/11 Memorial Grove on Liberty Island. The space had been devastated by Hurricane Sandy and volunteers planted new London Plane trees and amended the soil to reduce the high salt content remaining from the saltwater.
In 2017, Project Evergreen revitalized the Neighbors of Vega Baja Garden in East Harlem. Volunteers transformed 12,000 sq. ft. of vacant land into a growing surface as well as the installation of new apple trees and fruit-bearing bushes.
Volunteers restored the Clinton Community Garden on the Lower East Side in 2019. This project included installing paths, pavers, new planting beds and a shade garden. In 2020, Project EverGreen completed two more community garden restorations in Harlem, the Carolina Community Garden and the Jackie Robinson Community Garden.
At the Jackie Robinson Community Garden, volunteers installed new planting beds, plant material, a pea gravel path, a shade garden and regraded existing beds. Meanwhile, the Carolina Community Garden project included a chicken coop, a new access path for easy entry, and new planting beds.
In 2021, Project EverGreen improved the Wishing Well Community Garden in the Bronx by expanding pathway accessibility to all corners of the garden. Accessibility is particularly important for this garden as a number of gardeners are wheelchair users.
If you would like to get involved, click here to learn more.