(Photos by Emily Field)
After shutting off water access to avoid broken pipes during the frigid winter, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection has refused to turn the water back on at Myrtle Village Green, a community space occupying a formerly vacant lot on Myrtle Avenue between Kent and Franklin Avenues, forcing members to haul their own water to garden.
The coalition, comprised of more than 100 members, received permission from the city in 2011 to use the acre and a half space, which includes a working farm, a school garden and a composting operation that produces more than 1,000 pounds of compost a month, more than the Queens Botanical Garden.
Over the winter, the Myrtle Village Green Coalition asked the DEP – which owns the acre-and-a-half lot and controls the water access – to shut off the water to prevent the pipes from freezing, but now the DEP refuses to turn the water back on, according to organizer Eddie Bricker. Instead, the city has required the group to pay $3,000 dollars to install a water system, and to remove its four collectively-kept chickens, apiary and dog run, and to cease holding barbecues in its gathering area.
“They’re making us stop having barbecues since they’re a fire hazard, except you can hold barbecues in other parks if there’s access to water,” member Megan Davidson said. “We don’t have any clear feedback on what criteria we have to meet.”
According to Bricker, the group submitted plans for a water system to the city two weeks ago. They were told to expect a response within a few days, but have not heard back from the DEP.
Without a working water system, gardeners now haul their own water in five gallon containers, which weigh about 35 pounds each when full, to the lot. But since children can’t carry that much water, the schoolchildren from neighboring P.S. 157 have been unable to tend their garden beds.
“It’s like therapy for them and it brings them outside,” Elba Cornier said, who brought her second grade special education students to garden. She said her students, who have a range of physical and emotional activities, loved the garden, especially the chickens.
The group has already removed the four chickens, which members say were a popular attraction for passers-by.
“Particularly for such a culturally diverse neighborhood, the chickens were a real bridge for the community,” Davidson said. “We’d have South American families, Hasidic families come by. Everyone loved the chickens.”
The Myrtle Village Green has raised more than $1,500 for its water system. To contribute to the project, click here.