Visions of McCarren Park Urban Farm
Last Thursday, my friend Ryan and I (and a group of other North Brooklyn residents) attended the participatory budgeting meeting for the 33rd District. It was a chance for community members to voice concerns about problems in the neighborhood, present ideas about how to fix those problems, and start the process of deciding how to use $1 million set aside by City Councilmember Steve Levin for the purpose of this novel experiment in local democratic decision making. For a great recap of the meeting and a description of how the process will unfold going forward, read Ryan’s blog post on the website of the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning.
The relevant portion of the meeting for this blog post is Ryan’s potentially transformational idea for an urban farm in McCarren Park. He wrote up a detailed proposal that explained the history of McCarren Park (there was a children’s garden there early in the 20th century), the present situation of the park (there is an empty area to the east of park’s pool that would be great for a farm) and the future potential benefits to the community of turning that land into a farm (education for local school kids, beautification of an unused area, food for those with little access to healthy food, and many more). I was there to add my vote and support to his idea and to sign up as a budget delegate, meaning I will have a role in helping this plan manifest itself as time goes on.
Under Ryan’s proposal, the farm would be arranged in much the same way as Battery Urban Farm in Lower Manhattan: it would host school children for regular educational visits, seeking to change the cultural perspective around food by reaching young people and opening them up to the meaning inherent in connecting to nature. It would also demonstrate ways to clean the soil through phytoremediation, harvest rainwater, be a community composting center, and increase neighborhood access to healthy food by providing the farm’s produce to neighborhood schools and food banks.
All told, this farm would be a hub of activity and meaning for North Brooklyn: a way for neighbors to connect, to get their hands in the dirt, to make a vacant area of the park more beautiful, to begin again the work of repairing the land around us and nourishing body and soul.
This is a matter of looking at empty space and imagining ways to fill that space. Filling the space in this way also fills a void that many people feel living in a city of concrete and asphalt and skyscrapers. Let’s work together to fill that void with soil and vegetables and the reminder of what ultimately nourishes us all.
I will post more updates about this potential farm as the process unfolds.