Vacant Williamsburg Lot Will Become Community Garden, Or Maybe Apartments
April 18, 2013
By Lauren Evans
On Sunday, volunteers with environmental advocacy group Time’s Up broke into a fenced-off vacant lot at 99 South 5th Street in Williamsburg, with the goal of eventually turning the abandoned scrap of dirt into a beautiful community garden—a much-needed amenity in a neighborhood increasingly overrun with glass-walled high rises fetching astronomical rents.
Keegan Stephan, a volunteer coordinator with Time’s Up, said the long-abandoned space was perfect for such a project: Located just across the street from the group’s headquarters, the lot is oddly shaped and right next to the Williamsburg Bridge, making it a less than ideal site for a large development, but a perfect place to grow plants.
But no sooner had Time’s Up taken action to beautify the spot—which is currently owned by the city—than they received some unsettling news: After more than a decade of existing as a vacant lot, some members of the group caught wind of plans to construct a residential building right on the abandoned plot where the garden is expected to blossom.
According to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, a specific developer has not yet been selected, but the space is indeed slated to become part of a larger affordable housing project sometime in the near future. Furthermore, a representative from HPD told us that because development is imminent, it’s not possible to use the lot for gardening.
Despite the conflict, Stephan said he’s not worried about the garden’s future. “I see it as, we’re going to have a lot of visibility,” he said. “If it gets bulldozed, it’s going to raise people’s awareness. People will think that’s messed up.”
Stephan said that volunteers will continue to improve the space, dubbed “Nothing Yet Community Garden,” keeping their fingers crossed that the development never materializes (the Department of Buildings reveals no pending applications.).
“We’re going to work at least every Sunday, getting signatures of everyone who wants it to be a garden and not a development,” he said.
For only one day of work, volunteers have already accomplished quite a bit—garbage has been cleared, sticks and stones have been removed, and walkways are well on their way to being laid down. Time’s Up has no intention of stopping anytime soon, and it’s always looking for volunteers to help out. Interested? Send an email to NothingYetCommunityGarden@gmail.com, but don’t blame us if all your hard work is covered in construction come summer.