LONG ISLAND CITY, Queens — Sick and tired of waiting on permission, New York City Housing Authority residents decided to take over an empty lot in Long Island City and transform it into a community garden.
The lot has been an eyesore for years, Queensbridge Houses residents sad. Lashwan Marston has lived in the NYCHA development for 34 years and said he’s spent several of those years pressing the city to convert the land on 12th Street. He couldn’t get a straight answer from NYCHA, so he just started planting.
“I’ve been through a lot. This is good trouble, trouble we need to be in,” Marston said. “It’s a revolution.”
Marston bought a shed to store supplies and, with the help of 20 volunteers, started planting. Moesha Cedeno, 21, is one of the volunteers.
“I feel like growing up, you should learn to care about your community,” Cedeno said.
The garden is only a week old. There are homemade signs and people are starting to show up to take care of the plants.
Community activist Lauren Ashcraft said it couldn’t be taken away now that it’s already in place.
“That’s guerrilla gardening,” Ashcraft said.
NYCHA confirms the lot their property.
A spokesperson commended Marston’s enthusias,but said “…eight community gardens have been established in Queensbridge North and Queensbridge South Houses and it is NYCHA’s preference that residents support those sites before we authorize activation of a new space.”
Marston called the statement bulls–t.
“Are you going to take their advice? No. We are going to build this Queensbridge sacred garden. Nothing is going to stop us.
Marston’s unauthorized garden is getting a lot of attention. A petition supporting it has over 2200 signatures on change.org. Marston has powerful new allies.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney sent a letter to the NYCHA CEO earlier this month showing support for the new community garden.
Councilmember jimmy Van Bramer said he would be planting here too.
“NYCHA and city agencies have stolen from the people who live here for generations,” he said. “It’s time to get it back.”
NYCHA said they will not interfere with the operation so long as they comply with NYCHA rules and aren’t on pre-designated sites.
Marston said he is going to continue to garden
“I live here I have as much stake as you if not more,” he said. “We are not going to stop.”
This Saturday, Marston is holding an event in the garden. He invited families who have lost loved ones to violence to plant a flower in memory of their loved ones.