SE Queens Community Garden Receives TLC

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Volunteers work at the Dunton Community Garden

BY TAMARA S. ISAAC

April 22 marked the 47th anniversary of Earth Day. In celebration, the nonprofit organization New York Cares sent out an army of 30 to 35 volunteers proudly wearing blue New York Cares T-shirts to Dunton Community Garden in Southeast Queens.

Corporate partner HSBC sponsored these volunteers from organizations such as MediaCom USA, The City College of New York and the Grenville Baker Boys and Girls’ Club. They came equipped with tools, supplies and a great motivation to revitalize the community garden.

Since the first celebration of Earth Day in 1970, community gardens have become an essential part of New York City’s urban landscape. Dunton Community Garden, located at the corner of Remington Street and Shore Avenue in Jamaica, is a green space that is open and available to the public for recreation, relaxation and fresh, organically-grown produce.

Garden President Carl Greene and Vice President Sharon Smith maintain that the garden was once used as a dump. Today, Greene calls it an “oasis” in an urban landscape. Once a vacant lot, the site was transformed into a thriving community garden more than 40 years ago as the green urban revolution began to reclaim abandoned land and neighborhood eyesores.

“When we took over this place, it was nothing but a dump… the house burned down and everybody brought cars, tires, whatever junk,” Greene said. “So, everything went into the basement of the house and, afterward, we were able to get that cleaned up.”

Assisted by the city Department of Sanitation and the NYC Parks GreenThumb program, Greene said that the community garden was able to get dirt to fill up the hole.

Smith said that, over the years, the Dunton Community Garden became a thriving green space that hosts community events, such as field days for neighborhood children, jazz nights, live concerts, “oldies but goodies” evenings, summer Play Streets and health and nutrition workshops.

Last year, the garden’s membership began to dwindle, leaving the bulk of the work to a handful of garden members. Undeterred, Greene and Smith hope to see renewed interest in the garden with the support of New York Cares volunteers, the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust (BQLT) and the city Parks Department’s GreenThumb Program.

This year, NewYork Cares volunteers helped garden members build new raised garden beds, modify garden beds for seniors and youth gardeners and paint and revitalize existing structures. Garden members hope that in light of recent assistance by the city, the site will serve as an outdoor classroom for neighboring schools and faith-based youth groups.

“We have focused more intently on supporting community gardens,” said New York Cares spokesperson and site captain, Steve Streicher. “They often serve as a source of healthy, locally grown food and provide invaluable green space within dense urban areas. New York Cares mobilizes New Yorkers in volunteer service to meet pressing community needs. We’re proud to assist Dunton Community Garden in any way we can.”

For those interested in becoming a member of a Dunton Community Garden or volunteering, contact duntoncivic@gmail.com.

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