For two years now, Bronx resident Victor Maldonado of Melrose and his fellow residents have been organizing to create a community garden on 159th Street between St Ann’s and Eagle Avenues.
Currently known as Hill Street Community Garden, “The lot has been sitting there as an eyesore for years now, ” said Maldonado who is now petitioning NYC Department of Transportation, Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, and State Senator Ruben Diaz to push for this dream to become a reality.
Back when St Ann’s Terrace, the massive 700+ unit development adjacent to the site in question, the developer began to put up a nice brick façade at either entrance to the lot but according to some sources they were told to stop the work as it wasn’t part of the development.
So far, according to Maldonado and the petition, they have broad support from residents and businesses immediately surrounding the lot—including St Ann’s Terrace and their residents, Sts Peter and Paul Church across the street, and The New LIFE School atop the hill who is also one of the organizers.
Ramón Santos, owner of H&M Mattress Factory who’s business is directly adjacent to the lot also supports the project.
“It’s about time something is done with that lot to beautify it,” said Santos as he signed the petition.
Carla Rice, MA, LMSW, a social worker at New LIFE School wrote, “…I have consulted with school teachers and administrators and our organization would be pleased and honored to support the development of the Hill Street Community Garden.”
According to Rice the school is working on a budget to contribute to garden maintenance and its development should the community get the green light.
Rice also added:
“The New LIFE School is also interested in developing pathways of mentorship, internships and career development opportunities for our students. They would benefit from participation in a community project that could teach them about civic engagement, community development, government operations and environmental science. In addition, we are currently a school that has no outdoor space. The possibility of working in or just sitting in a community garden would greatly enhance the health, happiness and well-being of our students.”
And outdoor space is something Melrose is lacking.
As the fastest growing neighborhood in The Bronx as per the 2010 census and the addition of thousands of new, affordable housing units since then, Melrose still lacks a park within walking distance of most of these developments.
The only park available in the neighborhood is asphalt basketball and handball courts on 3rd Avenue and 157th Street, tiny Railroad Park on 161st and Courtlandt next to the Melrose Metro North station, and several other small “parks”.
Residents have to rely on the over 17 community gardens in Melrose for access to green spaces—the most community gardens in any New York City neighborhood—or walk to St Mary’s Park in Mott Haven at Melrose’s southern boarder or over to Joyce Kilmer Park, Franz Sigel Park on the Grand Concourse or Macomb Dam Park and Heritage Field on the site of the Old Yankee Stadium.
As part of the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Plan, a park was planned for Melrose Avenue between 159th and 160th Streets but that hasn’t come to fruition either.
Shanta Davis, who lives in St Ann’s Terrace, said she’d like to see something for people to enjoy. “Right now it doesn’t look good and it would be nice to have something we can all enjoy and sit down to relax,” Davis said.
If you would like to support this endeavor, please sign the petition and share it to get the city to give the residents their blessings on this project!