A popular Flushing community garden in Kissena Corridor Park, which has been managed by a Korean group for decades, will now be operated by the Parks Department’s Green Thumb program.
The switch was verified Friday by Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, who said it was time for a change, even though “there was some disappointment” among officials at the Korean-American Senior Citizens Society of Greater NY, who previously ran it.
The five-acre site near Colden Street features more than 300 garden plots used primarily from April to October.
The Parks Department program has been around for more than 20 years and is open to all, although the majority of gardeners are Korean. About 16 years ago there were problems with members selling their produce for profit, which is forbidden by Parks, and an accusation that they used human waste as fertilizer.
Lewandowski said the details of the management change are still unfolding, but that the reasons for the change were concerns that produce was being sold and some potential gardeners were being left out.
Others, speaking on the promise of anonymity, said the garden was getting too commercial and that the Korean group charged too much for membership. Lewandowski noted that Parks does not require a fee to participate.
The garden is open for use by members seven days a week during daylight hours and is available to the public to tour 20 hours a week.
Chuck Wade, a retired horticulture teacher at John Bowne High School and former executive director of the Queens Botanical Garden, has had a plot at Kissena Corridor for six years. Wade, who signed up early for this year, paid the Korean group $50.
He said in-house management would have better control of the operation. Lewandowski indicated her agency will have to figure out how to pay back people like Wade.
The Green Thumb program supports more than 500 community gardens in New York City with materials and events. There are only a few such sites in Queens.
Green Thumb is headed by Edie Stone, who will help select gardeners at Kissena Corridor in the next couple of weeks. People interested in maintaining a plot should consider emailing her at email@example.com.
Lewandowski stressed that the Korean organization will still be involved, but that members were told last year the management might change.
San Ok Kim, chief sanction officer of the Korean-American Senior Citizens Society of Greater NY, said Monday he was aware of the situation and had been meeting with Parks Department officials. He did not comment on the management change.
Last fall, the Korean group planted a flower memorial depicting an American flag for the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Gardeners gave up eight plots to create the design. Members also held a program with patriotic songs and speeches.
Another nearby community garden is located at the Queens Botanical Garden at 43-50 Main St. The cost is $150 to use the space three days a week for 30 weeks. If people can’t afford the price, they can provide four hours of volunteer service at the QBG and get $100 off.
To participate, persons must also be members of the garden, with membership fees starting at $30. So far, 20 people have signed up for this year, according to Patty Kleinberg, deputy director of the QBG.