While debates on what to do with the old Rockaway train line continue, a couple of gardeners have figured out just what to do with a Long Island City decommissioned rail line.
The Smiling Hogshead Ranch, founded by gardeners Gil Lopez and Stephanos Koulias, is looking to officially lease Long Island Rail Road’s Montauk Cutoff that runs along Skillman Avenue from the MTA.
The duo began farming vegetables and other greenery in 2011. The MTA found out a year later and now the two parties are looking to negotiate.
When the pair found it, the plot was in poor condition. Feral cats and underage kids looking to drink often hung around the area and homeless people used the tracks as storage.
The skull of a hog was even found in the rubble, which inspired the farm’s name.
The MTA had reportedly reached out to the Smiling Hogshead Ranch in 2012 and has been working with the farmers on a year-to-year agreement.
If successful, the land — which had no fence or ‘no trespassing’ signs — will be one of the first instances that the transportation agency has leased out its property to a group that began developing without permission.
Though train tracks are not commonly used, illegally placed gardens have been popping up in city-owned empty lots, particularly in areas where there is not room for much green space.
The reason many people jump the gun and create a garden without bureaucratic permission is due to the lengthy procedure of having such a project approved.
If the Smiling Hogshead Ranch went about it the usual way, the gardeners could wait years for city approval or hoping to score a highly competitive lot in a community garden
Recently, in Elmhurst, school children held a rally asking the city not to sell off a lot that had become their unofficial community garden.