This spring, the residents of Jamaica will not only have sunny days to look forward to but with luck, some homegrown vegetables.
With the recent transfer of the deed to a vacant lot at the corner of Merrick and Foch boulevards to the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust, the Merrick Marsden Neighbors Association will create a community garden for public use.
Two years ago, the lot, under ownership of the MMNA since 1967, was in danger of foreclosure after tax liens were placed on the property. Following a successful fundraising campaign netting nearly $30,000, the MMNA, in partnership with pro-bono legal counsel from 596 Acres, a nonprofit that helps communities overcome hurdles to public land access, transferred ownership of the land to the BQLT.
The land is now under permanent protection, which means that it cannot be used for development. According to the BQLT’s site, volunteer work days will be organized once the weather warms up to begin transforming the space.
As a nonprofit and land trust, the BQLT owns 33 community gardens throughout the two boroughs.
Although that group now owns the property, the MMNA will be in charge of managing it and must adhere to certain regulations if members want to continue using the space as a garden.
These requirements will include having a minimum of five members actively working to increase community participation and maintaining a minimum amount of “open hours” for the public.
While the news comes as a relief for the association, some residents in the community feel that action on the often-unkempt property was long overdue.
“Everyone was aware of this,” Joe Moretti, a resident of Jamaica, said, referring to the fact that throughout the years he has been vocal to elected officials about his concerns of the garbage dumped at the lot.
One of those individuals who Moretti reached out to was Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans). About two weeks after he was elected this past November, Miller said, the lot was brought to his attention.
“We mobilized some volunteers who were willing to assist with cleanup for the area,” Miller said.
He added that once the weather improves the beautification process will begin before any garden can be planted.
Despite the deed transfer that occurred at the end of the year, Moretti said that the lot, still with its fence knocked down, remained in disarray as recently as last week and is just one example of the many littered lots throughout Jamaica.
He acknowledged that during this past summer, a flea market was held at the lot, but before and after the event, the space was continually disregarded.
This will be the second garden that will be maintained by the association. Its first garden was founded in 1980 at the corner of Merrick Boulevard and 118th Road, complete with vegetables, flowers and fruit-bearing trees.
The MMNA could not be reached for comment.