A.R.R.O.W. REC CENTER
A.R.R.O.W. Site Queens Community Garden and Playground
This community garden is named after the neighborhood volunteer group responsible for its conception and final construction in June 2000: Astoria Residents Reclaiming Our World (A.R.R.O.W.). When Sally Sterago founded the organization in 1990, the acronym stood for Astoria Residents Recycling Our Waste. Every two weeks for three years, through funding from Councilman Peter F. Vallone, Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, and the Department of Sanitation, A.R.R.O.W. volunteers gathered in front of an Astoria Genovese drug store and organized the community’s recycling. In 1993, however, the City of New York instituted its own curb-side recycling program. At that point, the 50 A.R.R.O.W. volunteers decided to change their name to its present form and to shift their focus to community involvement.
The reorganized A.R.R.O.W. embarked on a new project, introduced by member Dorothy Moorehead, to construct a community garden. In early 1995, A.R.R.O.W. received a grant for a GreenThumb lease of the land bounded by 35th Street, 35th and 36th Avenues. The Department of General Services had already placed the property on the market for private sale, but three local community groups - A.R.R.O.W., Dutch Kills Civic Association, and Variety Boys and Girls Club - lobbied against the sale. They proposed instead to create a collaboratively operated community garden and playground on the land. On November 11, 1995, the Department of General Services conveyed jurisdiction over the land to Parks, and Parks entered into a management agreement with A.R.R.O.W. The Department of Sanitation removed the scrap metal and garbage that had previously littered the lot. Led by President Leslie A. Rubenstein, A.R.R.O.W. volunteers began refurbish the land with plants and bulbs.
In September 1998, A.R.R.O.W. closed the garden to carry out a major reconstruction. The renovation included the demolition of the derelict house on the south side and the construction of a community center suitable for year-round activities, complete with heating, lighting, and storage space. A.R.R.O.W. also maintains a space where three prototype pieces of moveable play equipment, built by architect Katie Winter, are set up for children to play. The children’s area was funded by the Design Trust for Public Space and the Children’s Environment Research Group. In 1998, Councilman Walter L. McCaffrey funded $198,000 worth of electrical work and reconstruction on the A.R.R.O.W. site. In 1999, Councilman McCaffrey provided an additional $970,000 for further renovations on this site.
The A.R.R.O.W. Garden reopened in June 2000, after almost two years of construction. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by Parks Commissioner Stern and Councilman McCaffrey, among others. The garden is characterized by an open green area, herb and vegetable gardens, flowers, Ailanthus trees and the multi-purpose community center space. The A.R.R.O.W. community center and garden not only provides Astoria residents with a recreational facility but also lends its space to the Latin-American Cultural Center of Queens and other community organizations.