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Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The Daily Plant : Friday, March 22, 2002

GREENTHUMB GARDENS GROW TOGETHER

Roughly 1,000 gardeners came to Hostos Community College in the Bronx to learn, to share tips and stories, and to meet others with a common devotion to community gardens at the 18th annual GreenThumb GrowTogether on March 16. All day Saturday, gardening professionals and experts from Parks, the Trust for Public Land, the New York Restoration Project, the New York and Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and other green institutions volunteered their time to offer over 70 workshops. Topics ranged from horticultural practices and construction to community organizing and educating children.

For the past three years, GreenThumb Deputy Director of Operations David Flanigan has organized the GrowTogether and is largely responsible for the event’s tremendous success. A generous increase in Community Development Block Grant funding through the Office of Management and Budget allowed GreenThumb to hire additional staff and secure Hostos Community College as a venue for the second year. Mark Leger, a community gardener himself, was brought on board to help put the event together.

Commissioner Adrian Benepe addressed the assembled gardeners at the opening session, urging them to keep their gardens beautiful and open to the public in the spirit of Parks facilities citywide. He also presented a farewell gift to David Flanigan, who will leave Parks in April to head a program at the National Tree Trust in Washington D.C. The opening ceremony included a performance by singers from the Taqwa Community Garden in the Bronx. Keynote speakers included Reverend Thomas Henderson, who is working with the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church on a nationwide sustainable agriculture initiative. Reverend Henderson’s goal is to ensure that fresh, healthy food be available everywhere and that the nation’s farmers stay in business. Franceska Santiago, who works with an organization based on the Lower East Side that involves youth in designing and building community garden spaces also spoke about her program, Open Road.

Founded in 1978, GreenThumb is the largest urban gardening program in the country. It assists over 600 groups citywide, transforming derelict land into attractive community resources. GreenThumb aids in the creation and maintenance of community gardens by providing volunteer gardeners with materials, technical support, seasonal workshops and small grants. The majority of GreenThumb gardens are located in communities that receive federal funding for a combination of affordable housing, business development and open space. More than half of the GreenThumb gardens are managed by community and block associations, offering an opportunity for people that live or work near them to take an active role in the re-development of their neighborhoods. In addition to encouraging cooperation among neighbors through gardening projects, gardens bring communities together for a variety of social events like barbecues, musical performances, and seasonal celebrations. Ongoing activities held at no charge to participants range from clothing and food giveaways and farmer's markets to Tai-Chi Classes and puppet & costume workshops.

"The most important part of the word ‘community garden’ is community," says Edie Stone, GreenThumb Director. "The real focus of the GreenThumb program is to strengthen gardens’ role as neighborhood anchors by increasing community involvement and public programming. This event helps give volunteer gardeners the skills they need to make their gardens real community assets."

By Jennifer Keeney

"PLANT PROFILE"

Sgt. Rodney Collazo

Sergeant Rodney Collazo began at Parks when he was just 15 years old in the Mentoring Program, working in former Commissioner Gotbaum’s office and assisting with special projects and daily clerical work. He then moved to Borough Commissioner Spiegel’s office where he performed similar duties and in 1994 Collazo worked poolside as a lifeguard in Brooklyn. In 1996, Collazo switched gears, becoming an officer and a Squad Leader for Central Communications for two years. Back to Brooklyn in 1998, Chief Nancy Barthold gained an Operations Coordinator in Collazo for the next two years. Since last September, Collazo has been a member of the Parks Enforcement Patrol.

"I’m one of the many employees that can honestly say ‘I love my job,’" says Collazo. As a PEP Sergeant he interacts with the public on a daily basis, enforces the rules and regulations of the City of New York, issues summonses to violators, and occasionally makes arrests. After years of a variety of experiences in Parks, perhaps his most interesting one took place on January 31. Collazo played a crucial role in stopping a man from jumping off the Riverside South Pier. On what started as a normal day, a call came in over the radio and Sgt. Collazo and Lt. Bayron were the first on the scene. "I immediately began conversing with the man, trying to ascertain what was wrong and what would drive him to this point," says Collazo. In an effort to convince the man not to jump, Collazo prepared to jump with him. Fortunately, Collazo, a dedicated Parkie for a decade, saved the day by saving a man’s life.

QUOTATION FOR THE DAY

"It's good to shut up sometimes"

Marcel Marceau

(b. March 22, 1923)

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