Summit Street Community Garden
Summit Garden is a symbol of the spirit of this neighborhood’s residents. In the 1950s, this maritime community bustled with pier activity and shopping, but it suffered after the loss of much shipping industry to New Jersey. Moreover, the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, or BQE, from 1946 to 1964 cut it off from the larger community to the east and north, including much of Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill.
Built under the direction of Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Chairman Robert Moses (1888-1981), the BQE cost $137 million dollars to complete. Federal, state, and municipal funds were all necessary for the construction of this massive, six-lane, 11.7 mile-long expressway. Despite its high cost, the BQE was intended not only to relieve congestion on local streets, but also to aid industry and business by shortening transportation time between the boroughs. The BQE will receive a $240-million dollar comprehensive reconstruction from the New York State Department of Transportation, beginning in 2000 and scheduled to be completed in 2004.
The development of Summit Garden, located on Summit and Columbia Streets, and other green spaces in the area shows the strength and resilience of this community. In the fall of 1993, a group of dedicated neighbors started a grass roots campaign to clean up an empty lot on this corner that was filled with garbage and waist-high weeds. With the support of Community Board 6, GreenThumb (a division of Parks that sponsors urban gardens), and donations, volunteers began the task of turning this once decrepit lot into a community garden. Over the months and years that followed, rubble and refuse were cleared away, flowers and trees were planted, bricks were laid for pathways, and a bocce court was installed.
By 1996, the community garden had not only replaced the broken-down lot with flowers and trees, it had created a meeting place for community members. Parks acquired the site in May 1998. The garden has become the site of numerous pot-lucks, meetings and even film screenings. The Summit Garden, together with other gardens in the area, serves as an inspiring reminder of the dedication and activism of the residents of the Columbia Street Waterfront District.