Life Does Exist in Hell’s Kitchen

by Jean Sarosy

I want to start out by saying that I was surprised that there is so much interest in “Green” projects in Hell’s Kitchen.

While doing research, I discovered an article about the Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries.  They run a Farm Project on a rooftop right here in Hell’s Kitchen. It is a 4,000 square feet rooftop of Metro Baptist Church which has been in existence for over 20 years and is a wonderful opportunity for volunteerism.  “Each month over 700 persons are provided emergency food assistance through RMM’s Client-Choice Food Pantry. Each person receives a 3-day supply of nutritious food staples; families may receive assistance once per month. Food Pantry doors open Saturday mornings 11:00- 11:30 a.m. (except fifth Saturdays in a month), and clients must be in the building by 11:30 a.m.  Food Pantry participants are required to bring photo I.D. for each member of the household, and proof of address.”  This is a great thing to have in a community where shelters have closed.  It is run by volunteers and receives donations from the United Way, City Harvest, Food Bank of New York and several others including seven Baptist Churches.   Individual sponsors can also buy shares ranging from $485.00 down to $200.00. (

Covenant House, located on 10th Avenue, which is an organization run by the Catholic Church to help those in need of shelter and other assistance, has started a Horticulture Internship to improve its open spaces.

What impressed me most was the Clinton Community Garden.  In 1978 a group of Hell’s Kitchen residents got together and cleared out a vacant lot which was the remnant of old tenements, abandoned cars and piles of garbage.  Many undesirables were taking up residence here and it was attracting all kinds of drug related crime. It was when they saw some tomatoes growing out of the rubble that they got the idea for a garden.  Then they started planting fruits and vegetables.  In 1984, this was the first Community Garden to be granted parkland status.

When I visited the gate was locked but I found some key-holders who were kind enough to let me enter.  It’s almost unbelievable that you are sitting right on 48th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues.  The silence is only interrupted by the occasional song of a bird – you could almost hear a pine needle drop.

“The city-owned property was leased through Operation Green Thumb in 1979 and organized into two sections, a public front garden with a lawn and flower beds and a back area for individual plots.  Over the next several years, the back garden was expanded from the west to the east, so that 108 garden plots were eventually created.  Paths were built from salvaged brick, and fences and gates were put in to protect the garden and separate the public area from the plots in the back.  Stone benches were made from recycled slabs of slate and concrete block.”  In its infancy there was a mural painted by Mallory Abramson on the west wall.  To this day, you can still see traces of it.  Now with the success of this garden, developers became very interested in acquiring the property.  The community banded together and formed the Save Clinton Community Garden Campaign and were successful in their efforts to keep the garden exactly where and how it is.

Astro’s Dog Run is a beautifully maintained dog run right on 10th Avenue.  It is meticulously maintained (all by volunteers) and has a lush garden adjoining the property.  This dog run is probably one of the largest in the area.  It’s wonderful for dog’s to be able to take their human companions to such a peaceful place where they can sit and rest while they (the dogs) socialize.  The humans also do a great deal of socializing which is a wonderful thing since a good many of the residents of Hell’s Kitchen are getting on in years and the thought of taking “Fido” for a long walk can be daunting.

The Hell’s Kitchen Green Summit was held in Hell’s Kitchen Park, 554, West 53rd Street on March 14th of this year.  This is another opportunity for Hell’s Kitchen gardeners to get together and plan for a greener future. (web page below).


Alice’s Garden is probably the most near and dear to my heart.  It’s a difficult to find but once you locate it, it’s well worth it.  Who would expect a lovely greenspace right next to all the noise and pollution belching out of the traffic from the Port Authority?  (I am trying to get in touch with Shanti Nagel, director of the community cultivation).  Since Alice Pareskian’s death in 2010, this park has been well-maintained by volunteers.  I would like to meet with some of them and learn more.  On the day I visited I was unable to enter because the gate was locked.  It’s just a front to back strip of land next to a Fed Ex facility which would otherwise just have been an unsightly empty lot strewn with debris.  Hell’s Kitchen doesn’t need one more of these, for sure!  YAI, an organization for developmentally and intellectually disabled persons, partners with the volunteers and has been helpful with picking up the trash.

Juan Alonso Park Community Garden, located on 51st and 11th is the northernmost key park hear in Hell’s Kitchen.  This park stretches along side of a CHDC affordable housing development and one of the paths leads into the development.  An extension is in the works near the Irish Arts Center and this should make it open to the public – no keys necessary.

Teresa’s Park is yet another park that leases its land from the Port Authority, is situated on 39th Street west of 9th Avenue.  It was first developed in the 1990s by Teresa Mattia, who lives across the street.  Here there is a picnic table which makes it appear more like a private backyard garden.

These parks are jewels in the middle of a very rough environment.  Many (key holders) people come at lunchtime to relax and eat lunch since there are no large parks in the area.  With lunch breaks being a limited amount of time, there’s no time to travel by bus or subway to a huge city oasis like Central Park.

According to the article “Your $2 Trip to an Urban Oasis,” more keys to the community gardens are going to become available.

Street gardens involve over 3,000 square feet of plantings.  The tree beds not only contain trees but many shrubs, perennials and bulbs.

On a more somber note, my beautiful “weed” – he might have been called buckthorn by his family – was cut down in his prime.  The owners of the parking lot on 43rd Street thought that his stately eight foot plus presence was an eyesore so they cut him down – didn’t remove the roots.  He’ll be back, I’m sure!

Jean S.


Astro’s Dog Run “Pups and their people kick-off 2013-2014 season at Astro’s HKN Dog Run Community” – Astro’s Dog Run Team 14 June 2013

Chelsea Now, “Your $2 Trip to an Urban Oasis:  Key Parks of Hell’s Kitchen, 28 August 2014

Clinton Community Garden – About –

Cultivate HKNY – Community Projects & Partners –!community-projefts/c1iob


Brownsville Then and now

by Stephanie Shelton

When I was about 7 years old my family and I went on our regular picnic to Prospect Park in Brooklyn where we found Miss Tour Tell (we thought it was French for turtle).  While fishing in a pond with string, a tree branch and pieces of bread from our sandwiches, my siblings and I came across a land turtle.  This turtle was pretty big and we spirited it away with us when we left the park, unbeknownst to our parents.  There was linoleum tile on our floors and the turtle had very long nails that made a tapping sound on the floor.  There were five of us children so of course my mother had supersonic hearing.  Needless to say, it wasn’t long before our capture was exposed.  We begged our parents to give us permission to keep the turtle and promised to be responsible for its care.  My parents agreed after admonishing us for taking the turtle from its natural habitat and family.  I guess they figured it was the lesser of two evils since we had been asking for a dog to keep in the small apartment that would have been another mouth to feed.  My family lived in one of the NYCHA housing developments called Red Hook.  We had a 5 room apartment that consisted of 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, living room and kitchen.  I have 2 older sisters, 1 younger sister and 1 brother.  My neighborhood consisted of persons of Polish descent and the shopkeepers were Jewish.  My family was one of the first Black families to move into the community.  Prospect Park was filled with foliage, greenery, animals, fish, birds and insects in abundance.

There was even a zoo that exposed us to animals that were not native to our community.  We hunted for frogs, praying mantis, butterflies and the like.  It was such a wonderful experience.  Where it was once commonplace to see land turtles walking about or greenery, or simply being able to use a twig, string and piece of bread to fish, it is now almost non-existent.  The environment has been damaged by pollution and population growth.   The Prospect Park of my youth is long gone.  Oh how I yearn for yesteryear!  The lakes that were once filled with fish are now just muddied, stagnant waters.  The animals in the zoo are almost non-existent and/or very old.  If we don’t do something now, will there be any wildlife or plant life around when my grandchildren grow older?  Will Brownsville Brooklyn really be a concrete jungle?

Brownsville gets its name from speculator Charles S. Brown of Esopus, New York.  He originally named it Brown’s Village in 1862.  Brownsville was filled with land marshes and was considered to be foul and inhabitable by most people.  Charles S. Brown figured that only the working class would see this area as an opportunity to both live and work within their community.   The community was comprised of tenements and factories because it was easier to provide employment within the community as opposed to traveling to Manhattan which was not an easy task.

Brownsville Brooklyn 100 years ago was primarily a Jewish community.  In 1910 Brownsville the first generation of Russian Jews found housing and employment in this area.   This community, nestled in the Brownsville area, was often referred to as “Little Jerusalem”.  (Brownsville and the curse of geography. para. 7) The Jewish population settled in this area after escaping the Lower East Side where unions were being formed and their assimilation in the community was not accepted.  The community grew faster than expected which led to crowded housing and poor sanitation.  Although Brownsville started out as a less than desirable community, and to some extent has remained so due to high crime rates, there were some bright spots.

In 1910, the Brownsville Children’s Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, became the first children’s library in the United States when it was inaugurated in 1914.  Also Margaret Sanger opened the country’s first birth-control clinic on Amboy Street in 1916.  (Brownsville and the curse of geography. para. 10).  The library was used as a social gathering for children but also provided education and books for children who might not have had this level of accessibility to reading material without it.  Margaret Sanger introduced birth control to the Brownsville neighborhood, providing women with the choice, freedom of choice, to decide when they would have children.

In the most recent 50 years, Brownsville has changed from a primarily Jewish community to an African American – Caribbean community.    The community has gone through the turbulent times of the United Federation of Teachers and the mostly black community facing off regarding better education for their school children, high crime rates and low income status – 1967 (Brownsville and the curse of geography. para. 14).  The majority of teachers within the schools in Brownsville were Caucasian.  Some parents felt that these teachers were not providing the same level of education that schools in predominantly Caucasian neighborhoods were receiving.  There was also the thought that resources and funding were not made available to the Brownsville community in the belief that educating Black children was not profitable.  There was a supposed belief that due to the high rate of crime and low income of households that the children in the Brownsville community were not going to amount to much anyway.

In 1980, the East Brooklyn Industrial Park opened making the area attractive to businesses with expansion needs and to businesses from other areas looking for industrial sites. (Brownsville Brooklyn:  Blacks, Jews and the Changing Face of the Ghetto. Chapter 9, pgs. 269-270).  In the 1990’s Brownsville witnessed an increase in the economy due to retail stores springing up that increased employment opportunities and building.

The community of Brownsville and surrounding areas were ripe with plant and animal life, some of which are now non-existent or endangered.  The area was first used by the Dutch in 1860 for farming.  The area was rich in vegetables such as turnips, potatoes, spinach, cabbage, carrots, celery, lettuce, peas, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, eggplant, bell peppers, asparagus, beets and brussel sprouts.  There was an abundance of fruit – watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, pumpkins, raspberries, peaches, pears, grapes, cherries and apples.  The land was also able to support plant life – zinnias, wisteria, tulips, Shasta daisies, rhodedendrons, pansies, peonies, hyacinths, aster and daffodils.  Herbs did very well in this area also – rosemary, thyme, sage, garlic, parsnips and chives.

The animal life in this area consisted of birds – piping plover, short eared owl, black tern, loggerhead shrike; reptiles – mud turtle, bog turtle and three sea turtles (Atlantic hawksbill, Atlantic Ridley and the Leatherback); amphibians – tiger salamander, northern cricket frog;  fish – short nose sturgeon, silver chub, pug nose shiner, round whitefish; insects – tomah mayfly, karner blue butterfly, bog buck moth and mollusks – rayed bean, fat pocketbook, pink muckett that are now endangered.  These animals have died out due to pollution and building that have either killed them off or through expansion (building) has taken over their territory.

The only plant life that seems to be around in this community today are the ones that are planted by humans.  The land has been taken over by housing developments, industrialized sections and the decay that comes along with population growth.  Pollution has infected and affected the waters along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean disturbing the wildlife that was once in abundance in the area.

The land that was once available for farming and planting has been covered over with concrete to lay foundations for much needed housing to support the growth of humankind.  There still exists the presence of the herbs that are familiar to this area.  You can taste and smell them through the varied foods that are available in the melting pot of Brooklyn. There are so many different ethnicities in Brooklyn, including Brownsville that you can walk from one block to the next and savor the smells and tastes of the community.  There is the jerk chicken of the Caribbean, the southern fried chicken of the African American, the fragrant smell of arroz condules in the Puerto Rican neighborhoods and the rich textures of the African and Jewish communities.

Yet aesthetically, it is so barren of the natural life that once existed here.  I was able to locate an evergreen shrub, Maple tree, bunchberry, wild strawberry, false lily of the valley, beach strawberry, dagger leaved rush, minuteman shrub and red leaf plum tree that were all planted by humans.  I found this plant life in my neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods planted in the backyards of homes and along sidewalks.  Their presence brings about a life of its own.  The beauty of the greenery in areas that are stark and almost devoid of any promise or hope.  They give a sense of community and stability to the neighborhood.  Their presence lets everyone know that someone plans to stay around to care for them.

There are several community gardens springing up in the community such as the Hull Street Garden and the Brownsville Student Farm Project – an 8, 000 square foot farm project – that is tended by the students at P.S. 323.  These projects represent the hope that at least in Brownsville, the community is being educated in and receptive to the importance of sustainability. There appears to be hope on the horizon.  More and more communities are being provided information about sustainability and living in harmony with our environment.  There are 64 compost sites in Brooklyn in various neighborhoods so that we can begin to again take care of the land. (NYC Compost Project).

Although seeing a raccoon in your backyard or hearing a coyote howling in the near distance, was once seen as unfathomable in the city, we are beginning to realize that we are encroaching on the natural habitat of many animals.  There is less land for them to feed on.  There is less opportunity to care for themselves and their families.  They are also trying to survive during this period of expansion. We all need to live and survive in harmony.  If we continue to grow, and I am sure that we will, then we are going to have to come up with a way to maintain the food supplies and natural resources that are needed.


Stephanie S.


References/Citations –Brownsville Brooklyn:  Blacks, Jews, and the Changing Face of the Ghetto. – Brownsville and the curse of geography – Turning Brownsville Green… – NYC Compost Project



Of Muppet, Wildlife, and Biodiversity in Queens

by Savannah Mazda

Living in a fairly quiet, manicured neighbourhood in Queens, there are certain things I never expect to see. Wildlife happens to be one of them. I’ll never forget the day that I was walking my own rather-manicured additions to the neighbourhood, my Yorkie-Poodle mix, Daisy and my Maltese-Poodle mix, Muppet, and I saw just this: out of no where, a swooping bird of prey came down and tried to make off with Muppet, in the middle of a Queens park. My stepmother heroically managed to save the dog, but unfortunately the bird turned its attention elsewhere, and a common pigeon was less lucky. We later identified the attempted dog-snatcher as a red-tailed hawk, and while I couldn’t believe that this thing I had always associated with the wild was living and hunting in my neighbourhood, I later found out that there is a well-known nest of red-tailed hawks living not too far from me, in Astoria, Queens (Yolton,, p. 1). It just goes to show that my neighbourhood of Woodside, Queens, despite being manicured and man-made, still has diverse animal and plant life.

Queens has been growing in diversity and development since the early 1900s, over one hundred years ago now. The boom followed the building of the LIRR, which made Queens incredibly commuter-friendly in a way that it had not been before. Suddenly, real-estate developers had an interest in Queens, and the previously fairly undeveloped county saw new buildings and settlements erected practically overnight. One hundred years ago saw the population of Queens practically double, and all because of the addition of a train-line. This was the beginning of the change of the face of Queens, of urbanization, and of the diverse Queens we know today (Fons,, p. 10-12).

The real change and diversification of Queens, however, at least in terms of the human population, occurred just under 50 years ago, in 1968, when “Congress restructured the legislation on immigration from third-world countries,” leading to a surge in immigration, which in turn led to extreme diversification of the population of Queens. This also resulted in new buildings being erected, new stores opening, and a general cultural explosion as immigrants from all walks of life settled in Queens and made it their home. While it could be said that Queens lost some of its natural wildlife in terms of plants and animals because of the urbanization of the neighbourhood, it also grew in diversity because of the new population of people, such as Russians, Greeks, Asians, and the Irish. (Fons,, p. 13). Even today their influence can be seen in so many neighborhoods, such as the heavily-Irish populated Woodside, full of pub trivia and fish and chips, or Flushing Queens, which could be said to rival Chinatown.

While it is sometimes hard to find examples of really wild wildlife in New York City (excluding of course, our familiar friends the roaches, rats, and raccoons), there are actually many species of plants and animals that are native to Queens, and indeed the greater New York area, as one poor puppy of mine found out first hand. I’ve already spoken about the family of red-tailed hawks in Astoria, but in fact New York is home to a number of birds, including songbirds, waterfowl, and raptors, ranging from birds as large and imposing as eagles down to the common sparrow that New Yorkers often see pecking up breadcrumbs from the street. There are also many different kinds of mammals native to Queens and New York, as well as one marsupial, the opossum. As for the rest of them, although not many of the larger ones can be found inside the urban city any more,  some of the mammals native to New York include mice, rats, skunks, squirrels, weasels, raccoons, rabbits, bats, and even larger animals like bears and cougars, although it is uncommon to sight the latter animals inside the city outside of a zoo setting. Foxes, however, are common, and often rummage through garbage for food, just like raccoons. Aquatic rodents, such as beavers, are also native to New York, and can still be seen in some places where there are bodies of water (

The native plant life of New York and more specifically Queens is equally diverse. In terms of native trees, Queens is home to a variety of Maples, Birches, Ashes, and Oaks, as well as the Poplar, Hornbeam, Hackberry, Redbud, Fringetree, Flowering Dogwood, and many others. It is also home to a variety of shrubs, such as Alders and Chokeberries, and four different kinds of Sumac. The native flowers of New York State are too numerous, but it is home to a number of perennials that thrive in both the sun and the shade, switch grass, butterfly weed, wild ginger, and the yellow trout lilly, to name a few ( Although these species are native to Queens, the plant life in my neighbourhood appears to be manicured and planted by humans, with the exception of perhaps the trees.

When I walk around my neighbourhood, one of the first things I am always struck by is how much greener it is than it appears. I don’t think of myself as living in a particularly rural or even suburban area, but when I look around and see all of the trees and flowers and plants I realise that perhaps I am luckier than I realise, especially considering I actually live right across the road from a park. There aren’t many species that I see in my excursions that technically fit into the label of being ‘native,’ as most of them were planted by people to make for a nice living environment, but one thing you will always see in my neighbourhood at certain times of year is Maple Sycamore helicopter seed pods littered all over the ground ( The trees in my neighbourhood are perhaps the most ‘natural’ of the plant life, along with the plants colloquially known as weeds. One thing that isn’t hard to find in Woodside, Queens, are dandelions ( They pop up everywhere, in the cracks of pavements, on the side of the road. I happen to enjoy seeing them, whether or not they’re weeds or pests, because there’s something simple about them that makes me happy, the idea of this little plant that happens to crop up everywhere you go.

Some of the plants that I saw were clearly planted in order to be aesthetically pleasing to the neighbourhood, because while people here do not have yards, there is planting space on the roads. For example, I observed neat patches of daffodils ( and rose bushes (, and next to that a well-groomed patch of what I believe to be horsemint (  They were all planted around the same place, and at the very least I think the roses  and the mint were planted somewhat for smell, as that whole corner of the block had an amazing scent. The daffodils weren’t actually in bloom, but I recognised them right away, just by sight. Another plant that I found which was obviously planted by people for aesthetic purposes was a group of pansies ( Overall, I discovered that the plant-life where I live seems to be very deliberately planted, and yet there was diversity in it too, not to mention that there were still things like dandelions popping up everywhere, leading to a diverse mix of native plants (trees and dandelions), and implants brought in by humans. All of them contributed to the greenery in my neighbourhood, and they make for a pleasant walk and calming environment.

Among the greenery of my neighborhood you will often find little furry feet trotting along and on occasion, but while some of them are native New Yorkers, the majority of the ones I see on a daily basis and/or interact with are people’s pets, which consist primarily of dogs. As I’ve mentioned, I have two dogs, a Maltese-Poodle and a Yorkie-Poodle. My neighbour has a Pitbull, and while I walked around I came across a yellow Labrador as well. And of course, there is the tale of the now-infamous (at least in my family), dog-snatching hawk. Also common in my neighbourhood are pigeons and mice, in fact I have a very small house-guest currently residing in my kitchen. We’ve yet to collect rent, but needless to say we hope he won’t be staying for long.

Diversity can mean many things, and just because an area has lots of plant and animal life that came to be at the hands of human, does not mean that the community is not diverse. Regardless of what outside things are brought in, certain things seem to push through regardless, creating a sort of marriage between the manicured and the wild. Animals will sometimes invade you home, regardless of whether you want them to or not, and at certain times of year, you won’t be able to take a step without the crunch of helicopter seed pods under your feet. It is the mix of new and old that makes Queens unique, and it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re looking for a red-tailed hawk or a teeny tiny dog, look hard enough, and eventually you’ll find it. Muppet is doing just fine, by the way, and seems no worse for the wear despite his harrowing hawk encounter. In fact he still rushes to the park with excitement. No, he’s not concerned, it’s me that ends up keeping an eye on the skies.

Savannah M.


Works Cited

“Daffodils – Tips, Gardening, Pictures, Care, Meaning, Growing Daffodils.” The Flower Expert. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 June 2015.

Fons, Mary K. “Long Live the Queens.” The Cooperator. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 June 2015.

Grieve, M. “Dandelion.” N.p., n.d. Web. 17 June 2015.

“Heirloom Roses.” Roses, Rose Bushes, Rose Gardening, Rose Plants –. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 June 2015.

“Horsemint, Spotted Beebalm.” N.p., n.d. Web. 17 June 2015.

Iannotti, Marie. “How to Grow Pansies in Your Garden.” N.p., n.d. Web. 17 June 2015. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 June 2015.

“Plants Profile for Acer Pseudoplatanus (sycamore Maple).” Plants Profile for Acer Pseudoplatanus (sycamore Maple). N.p., n.d. Web. 17 June 2015.

“Regional Plant List – New York, NY, Pennsylvania, PA, Northern New Jersey, NJ.” Regional Plant List – New York, NY, Pennsylvania, PA, Northern New Jersey, NJ. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 June 2015.

“Wildlife of New York.” NYF. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 June 2015.

Yolton, Bruce. “Urban Hawks.” ‘Urban Hawks’ N.p., n.d. Web. 17 June 2015.


Food Security in Carroll Gardens/Boerum Hill and NYC

by Paris Morales

Within the Carroll Gardens/Boerum Hill neighborhood there are various great food sources available to the community. From the farmers markets to local bakeries, the community in Carroll Gardens/Boerum Hill is fortunate to have several reliable sources of healthy foods, as well as numerous restaurants varying from high end to affordable. Along with several smaller scale/local business food sources, the neighborhood has several bigger business supermarkets like Union Market and Trader Joes providing organic foods to the neighborhood. Fortunately, each neighborhood has limited the building of fast-food style places showing its commitment to the more family-owned restaurants and local food resources like delis and other small food markets. The GrowNYC organization helps by organizing many farmers markets around New York City, and operates the Fresh Pantry Program, which contributes to local food pantries, homeless shelters, and community centers around the city. They also provide fresh and affordable produce delivery for wholesale purchases of sustainable goods to local businesses and restaurants. Having two Greenmarkets within a few blocks of my neighborhood allows for loads of fresh produce to flow throughout the local markets, restaurants, bakeries and my home.

With a large amount of natural resources moving through Carroll Gardens and Boerum Hill, I am able to see how the vast majority of places in my neighborhood try to buy locally-grown and fresh goods from local businesses and farmers markets. This allows not only for a sense of strong community by allowing people to be more locally involved, it also helps by adding existing plans amongst the neighborhood to provide healthy food to its residents. I believe these farmers markets are a great way of connecting local businesses to local farmers who in turn help one-another keep fresh foods in our neighborhood to provide for healthy and happy residents. Not only does the GrowNYC provide the New York City area with locally grown fruit and vegetables, it provides youth education about the importance of agricultural goods, the environment, and health. They also help people learn how to grow fresh produce for themselves and how to maintain their own farms.

I believe my community is primarily a very healthy community. The Carroll Gardens/Boerum Hill area is mainly comprised of locally owned establishments that use and sell organic produce and foods due to the higher income demographic that live in the neighborhood. However, with places like Trader Joes, people who live here who aren’t a part of the upper class can still enjoy organic and quality goods for an affordable price. The community has also done a good job of limiting fast food presence in the neighborhood. Food resources are abundant for all demographics that live in the area, and the abundant presence of restaurants allows for several different kinds of upscale or affordable food experiences.

Although there are many great food resources in the neighborhood, I believe there could be more community gardens throughout the area. I feel like this does not just go for my neighborhood, but all neighborhoods could use more community gardens and roof gardens. If more people were educated on how to grow their own agricultural produce they could contribute further to a more sustainable environmental. A Columbia University Lab Report regarding urban agriculture explained that, “urban agriculture can be a means of transforming underutilized or neglected space into a public resource, providing opportunities for social interaction, greater community cohesion and self-sufficiency…” (1). GrowNYC was even mentioned in the report as an important contributor to a program, Grow to Learn NYC, which has added gardens to schools all over New York so kids can learn about farming and how fresh grown produce helps them and their environment (1).

As shown in a map of the New York City area, there are tens of thousands of acres of unutilized land that can be used for community gardens and other forms of urban agriculture (1). Helping kids learn the importance of being more self-sufficient is also a great way to help spread further awareness about helping our food security and establishing more environmental friendly neighborhoods throughout New York with healthier residents.

Yet as a whole New York City can still do a lot more to better itself by expanding its environmental contributions. New York City clearly has a massive urban population and landscape, which can make it difficult for people to maintain a sustainable environment with a lack of natural environment. In New York City the poverty rate is high which also does not help the situation and in these lower income neighbor hoods, obesity is a public health issue. This is one aspect of food security that needs to be addressed further because it proves the main areas where fresh foods are lacking are the ones experiencing the most health problems. People of lower income bracket should not be subject to simply consuming foods that can clog their arteries and lead to such problematic obesity (4). When looking at health problems around the world with food security, people tend to be malnourished, rather than obese. But the State of New York has made efforts to try and bring more healthy foods to these lower income communities. Initiatives like the Green Carts Programs, allow for an“…increased the number of permits available to street vendors selling fresh produce in lower-income police precincts; this both increased access to fresh produce and provided employment opportunities…” (2). These programs as well as recent changes that allow people with food stamps to buy fresh foods at Farmers Markets are good steps in helping bring healthier foods to the poor communities in New York City.

With a large population such as New York’s, one must always wonder if the amount of growth within the population will begin to make food security issues a bigger problem for the city. However, one must not forget New York has a sizeable amount of land that isn’t being used. One company that took a big step in helping roof agriculture become a popular method of adding my fresh produce to the New York Area is the Brooklyn Grange. The Brooklyn Grange is located on a 2.5-acre roof, spanning two buildings, and providing over 50,000 pounds of organic produce every year for farmers markets, local restaurants, and even their own food stand (3). A 2009 study by The New York Department of City Planning found that there are over 8,000 acres of vacant land; over 3,500 acres are public land 1. This much land could provide massive amounts of potential for new agricultural developments, yet not all of this land can be used for food development, but this still does not account for the amount of open rooftop space in NYC. In New York City there are almost one million building, which could foster at least a few thousand rooftop gardens, even if they are just for personal use. Rooftop gardens like this can make the difference in providing more healthy foods for local communities or personal wellbeing.

As a neighborhood, the Boerum Hill and Carroll Gardens area is not a neighborhood with much poverty. Although there is public housing nearby, and a Hispanic community which has lived in the neighborhood for over two decades that is not part of the upper demographics. We do have several sources of good quality affordable food from places like Trader Joes and the local Grow NYC Farmers Market, which allows for a healthier community even for the lower income residents.  Yet in New York City much still needs to be accomplished in the area of food scarcity. With high obesity rates and the ability to create more urban agricultural sites around the city, hopefully we can work to create a healthier and affordable food sources in the areas that need it most.


Works Cited

1. Ackerman, K. 2012. The potential for urban agriculture in New York City: Growing capacity, food security, and green infrastructure. New York City: Urban Design Lab at the Earth Institute Columbia University.

2.  McPhearson, Timon, Zoe A. Hamstead, and Peleg Kremer. “Urban Ecosystem Services for Resilience Planning and Management in New York City.” Ambio43.4 (2014): 502+. Academic OneFile. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

3. Wurwarg, Jessica. “Urbanization and hunger: food policies and programs, responding to urbanization, and benefiting the urban poor in three cities.” Journal of International Affairs 67.2 (2014): 75+. Academic OneFile. Web. 17 Dec. 2014.

4. Miller, Mark J. “A Farm Grows in Brooklyn—on the Roof.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 29 Apr. 2014. Web. 17 Dec. 2014.

Internet Freedom

by Harry J. Friedman

A free and uncensored Internet is an essential indicator of a nation’s commitment to free speech. The Internet has revolutionized the way we share and receive information, liberating us from centralized media and enabling us in unprecedented ways to organize in defense of issues we care about. The unregulated nature of the Internet with no regard for state boundaries is what has made it a network of networks, allowing information to flow to all parts of the world and connecting people from all walks of life. It’s an incredible thing when a child in Nigeria can watch the same Youtube video as a corporate CEO in the US. But of course, so much freedom was bound to be constrained and intruded upon. In We the Media, author Dan Gillmor calls it the clampdown. Cyber liberty is currently hanging in the balance, as governments, corporations, and the public struggle to deal with issues of net neutrality, communications surveillance, and web zoning.

The revolution of online expression over the past decade is now being followed by an explosion of communications surveillance. According to a report by Frank La Rue, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, as information and communications technologies have developed, so have the means by which states can monitor people’s’ activity on the web. Gillmor touches upon this in Chapter 11, pointing out how the Internet’s original architecture was designed in a way that no one could find out which pages you visited. The advent of Cookies, little files placed on users’ computers, have basically made people’s private data a commodity. The right to privacy is essential to the freedom to express oneself. Interfering with people’s’ privacy limits the free development and exchange of ideas. Governments are using these surveillance technologies in the name of national security. And many people give their support to that end. But what La Rue confirms is that states must make a commitment to protecting human rights in their communications surveillance framework (La Rue).

The issue that has perhaps sparked the biggest uproar about Internet freedom is net neutrality. In this case, the controversy is around maintaining fair, open, and equal access to information. After all, what’s the point of free speech if your words can’t be heard. When Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that “net neutrality is obamacare for the Internet,” the knuckleheads over at The Oatmeal responded with an article to educate Cruz about the actual meaning of net neutrality. It has much less to do with government regulation and more to do with telecommunications companies squeezing the Internet to fit their business needs. The Oatmeal provide a key example to illustrate what the effects would be if these companies discriminated against various types of web traffic. Comcast could create a search engine that only produces search results if you pay extra. Then they could force you to use that search engine by slowing your internet access, bombarding you with advertisements, or flat out blocking your access. As it turns out, Comcast already did this to Netflix, making them pay millions of dollars by slowing down the movie streaming speeds (Oatmeal). Again, it is a beautiful accomplishment for humanity that a child in a third world nation can be educated through accessing the Internet to lift himself out of poverty. And it was another great accomplishment to put SOPA back on the shelf. But it is imperative that we continue to raise our voices against any corporations or laws that intend to restrict the Internet only to those who can afford it.

The Internet is stateless. Information on the web, for the most part, flows freely without regard for state borders. However, as governments ramp up their surveillance efforts and countries struggle with questions of jurisdiction, the creation of a “Splinternet” becomes more and more realistic. According to Emma Llanso, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Free Expression Project, governments are calling for all of the data of their citizens to be stored locally, within the boundaries of the country. This would essentially create a world with country-specific Internets that don’t connect to form a global network. This relates to the two previous issues discussed. First, local data laws would give national governments much easier access to their citizens’ communications. Second, the cross-cultural dialogue that is a central tenet of the Internet would pretty much end (Llanso). Gillmor discusses the issues with zoning content on the Internet, explaining how what a person in one country sees on a given website would be different from what another person sees in a different country even when both type in the same web address. Gillmor’s argument deals with jurisdiction laws, where content accepted in one country may not be acceptable in another country. Regardless of the reasons, zoning the Internet would be a devastating step backwards in the march to global connectedness.

These issues pose a serious danger to free speech across the Internet. I’m concerned about people’s willingness to raise their voices. The scale of these issues seem so blatant. The people we elect to represent us are explicitly acting in opposition of what the people want. When I voice my opinions, I have to assume that I’m not the only one who feels this way. I don’t want my privacy invaded. I don’t want to be cut off from the rest of the world. I don’t want to have to pay extra to access different parts of the web. I don’t want to have the standards of the Internet set by the most restrictive jurisdictions. These are issues that affect billions of people. SOPA, which would have removed enormous amounts of non-infringing content from the web, was defeated by way too narrow a margin. Wake up people!

I remember in my sophomore year at Temple University, I read a book called Why it’s Kicking off EveryWhere, by Paul Mason. In it, Mason attributed the wave of revolutions and protests across the world to social media. News became news when someone posted an update on Twitter. Gillmor loves that. He loves that news is transforming from a 20th century mass media structured lecture where Big Media tells you what the story is, to a conversation where the communication network has become a medium for everyone’s voice. That is a shift to be inspired by. This brings to mind a quote from The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo: “the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything because it’s all written there.” Coehlo was talking about intuition and enlightenment. For those of us who are not yet in tune or enlightened, we have the Internet.

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Ithaca: Ten Square Miles of Sustainability by Maggie Morris-Knower

A popular bumper sticker in Ithaca reads, “10 square miles surrounded by reality.” A small city on the edge of Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes region in Upstate New York, Ithaca is geographically isolated from the surrounding county by steep hills on three sides and the longest stretch of fresh water of the thirteen Finger Lakes on the fourth. A student population of roughly 27,000 combined from Cornell University and Ithaca College counterbalances the city’s population of around 30,000 full-time residents. Many of the students and residents in Ithaca that I interviewed had no trouble coming up with local examples of sustainability. Informed citizens appear to be the reason behind the national accolades for Ithaca as a green city. Even with civic organizations working with businesses and local elected officials to improve sustainable practices, some Ithacans think their city can do better.

Charlotte is a 22 year-old college student at Cornell University and a native Ithacan. “When you grow up in Ithaca, you’re basically raised an environmentalist,” she said. Charlotte explained sustainability as “creating a system with permeating effects without wearing on resources,” but didn’t think it was an important issue for the majority of students at Cornell. “It’s not a conversation you hear all the time,” she said. However, she did say that in terms of sustainable transportation, the university was doing a “good job” of limiting on-campus parking as a way to encourage students to find an alternative way to their classes. All first year students receive a free, unlimited bus pass, which was a good resource for students living off-campus. The bus passes were almost cut from the budget last year but after a negative reaction from many students, the decision was reconsidered.

Charlotte studied food security in a global context as part of her degree in international labor relations and in comparison with other places, she said she sees Ithaca as “a wealthy community, with so many farms and local products, it’s amazing.” If anything should threaten the food security of the country or even NYS, Charlotte felt that in Ithaca “there’s a system of self-reliance and diversity.”

Ellen is a middle-aged woman who has been living in Ithaca since 1998. She has worked as a real estate agent for almost ten years, and previously had a part-time job in the city’s urban renewal department. Ellen thinks sustainability is an important issue, and says that the next generation’s major task should be focused on designing objects “so that when the primary function becomes obsolete, it can be repurposed into something useful that is not landfill.” She bought a new Prius two years ago because she drives a lot for her business, and picks up local produce from a weekly CSA share at a farm on the other side of town. As a real estate agent, Ellen sees household energy consumption as an important sustainability-related issue. She says that her home is partially heated by a wood-burning stove, and that she applied for a “home energy improvement loan” from INHS a few years ago through NYSERDA, which enabled her to buy new windows for her house to improve insulation.

Jim grew up outside of Utica, New York and moved to Ithaca when he got a job as a librarian at Cornell University fifteen years ago. As part of his work, Jim teaches seminars on research methods and recently, Cornell sent him to schools in Ghana, South Africa, and India to give seminars to other librarians. On his most recent trip, Jim worked with plant breeders and researchers in Ghana who “were responsible for the food security of their entire country.” In his words, sustainability means “any practice whose longevity is ensured.” We talked about the economics of sustainability. Jim said that a consumer-based society is unsustainable by nature. He likes a website called Freecycle, where people can upload photos and descriptions of objects that they want to give away and other people in the area will contact them if interested. There is no money involved in the transaction, and no waste created from the unwanted object. Jim said that transportation was another important sustainability-related issue in Ithaca, and that many people were deterred from biking more because of the steep hills in Ithaca. Jim mentioned that a new business opened recently downtown that sold electric bikes and installed engines on people’s regular bikes. He thought this would be a good way to encourage people to bike more instead of driving. Jim also brought up a number of issues that had to do with sustainability at a global level, specifically about renewable energy sources like solar and nuclear power. “How are we going to recycle solar panels?” he asked.

Lisa is a retired nurse who moved from Denmark in the mid-seventies and has lived in Ithaca for twenty years. She defined sustainability as respect for the earth and for nature, and gave examples of how to do so, such as not using harmful chemicals and also buying locally and supporting farmers. Lisa says the biggest sustainability-related problem in Ithaca is the lack of bike lanes, which makes it unsafe for bikers to share the road with cars. She also said that biking is so unregulated that it is easy not to follow the road rules, which is also a problem. However, Lisa did say that the buses had bike racks on the front, which was a good thing. Lisa explained food security as knowing what you are eating, including the ingredients in your food, what pesticides were used to grow the food, and how the animals were treated. Now that she is retired, Lisa said that she wanted to start giving cooking classes to people with low-income families to help educate people about affordable and healthy options for eating at home instead of at a fast food restaurant.

On a walk around downtown Ithaca, different examples of sustainable practices like recycling and renewable energy are apparent from just looking at storefronts. Many local businesses are dedicated to selling second-hand goods, such as furniture, clothing, and architectural salvage (see photo 1).

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There are also a number of local restaurants, including Moosewood Restaurant, whose eponymous cookbook has influenced vegetarian chefs since it was first published in 1977. The local economy benefits greatly from the numerous family farms in the area: the Ithaca Farmer’s Market has 160 vendors selling food, produce, and handmade goods every week throughout the year. Every weekend, the parking lot is packed with people who come from all over the county to support their farmers, but relying on cars as the principal means of transportation could cancel out well-intentioned efforts to shop locally.

Although there are a few streets with bike lanes, and the city has not announced plans to build more. An initiative called Recycle Ithaca’s Bikes (RIBs) collects and recycles old bike parts and teaches people how to fix their own bikes (see photo 2). It is open three times a week.

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A new bike share program may be implemented in 2015, but without appropriate planning and infrastructure, the increase in bikers could lead to more problems. Walking is still good enough for many residents, nearly 15.4% of whom walk to work instead of driving. The mayor of Ithaca recently gave up his parking spot by City Hall in favor of joining Ithaca Car Share.

While the rest of the country is still debating whether climate change is real, Ithacans are making sustainability a part of their lives and their city. Ithaca’s holistic approach to sustainability proves that its favorite bumper sticker is more than just a souvenir.




East Harlem Report by Harry Friedman

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I left my apartment this morning with the intention of interviewing some people in the community to get a clearer picture of the major issues and changes that have taken place in East Harlem. I am particularly interested in learning how people feel about their access to nutritious food and whether or not the community is making progress in areas of sustainability. I’m also keen to hear what people think of sustainability as a modern phenomenon or simple way of living. Walking the streets, I followed my gut to seek out the people who appeared to embody the culture and way of life in East Harlem. These interviews are the accounts and reflections of people who have watched and personally experienced this community evolve over the past 20-50 years.

William “pepsi man” has been living in East Harlem for over 30 years. 8 AM on a Monday morning, William is sitting on a bench in front of the Thomas Jefferson Projects, smoking a cigarette. He was unsure how to answer my question of sustainability. In an attempt to guide his thinking, I made a rookie journalist mistake by giving too much guidance and linking sustainability to climate change. His response, however, was genuine and real. “Ten years ago, it was colder at this time of year. It should be colder now. And we should be getting more rain.”

Some of the changes William has seen occur in the community are that there are “more stores, less empty buildings, less burnt out buildings, less filth.” He remembers people chilling outside the projects, drinking 40s and tossing the bottles in the street. “ You couldn’t walk around here and not step on broken glass. You could get away with a lot more back then. You could practically smoke weed right in a cop’s face.” Now there is a visibly strong police presence around the project buildings and throughout East Harlem. Last month, 3 men were shot and killed in Jefferson Park. Police have been patrolling the park every night, making sure no one is there after the park closes. The policemen that patrol the area are mostly minorities.

The biggest problem in the community, according to William, is gun violence. “The younger generation needs to stop all this killing. We used to fight with these (holding up his fists).” When two people would get in a fight, he said, they’d go separate ways afterwards and that would be it. “These days everyone got something to prove.” Apparently someone in his building was shot and killed after beating another guy in a fight the night before. But that’s only half the problem. Williams see police gun control as a major issue as well. “The police always got a line, ‘shoot first, ask questions later’– that ain’t right.” Bringing up the topic of Miami’s police using rubber bullets, he asks “Why can’t they do that here?”

In a report from April 2013 by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the rate of firearm assault hospitalization among 15-24 year olds in East Harlem was 80.7 per 100,000, more than double the citywide average. Based on its population, East Harlem has the second highest death rate in New York City (Firearm). An article from DNAinfo explains how “Police and community leaders attribute much of the violent crime to youth gangs, which are mainly clustered in the neighborhood’s public housing projects.” (DNAinfo)

On the topic of access to nutritious and affordable food, William said “it’s alright.” He acknowledged that people can get nutritious food if they want, but there are so many more stores selling junk for much cheaper. The bodegas clearly outnumber the grocery stores. I asked him if he thought that more people would eat healthier if there were healthier options in the bodegas or they’d still go for the junk food. “If more options were there for people, they might eat healthier, he said.” In his opinion, people don’t really make serious changes in their lifestyle until it becomes a necessity. Despite the fact that William was diagnosed with diabetes 9 years ago, he says he doesn’t have any episodes, and so continues to eat greasy food and sugary treats.

According to a report from the East and Central Harlem District Public Health Office, about 31% of adults in East Harlem are obese, in contrast to the citywide rate of 22%. About 13% of adults in East Harlem have diabetes, compared with 9% of adults citywide. One of the key findings in the report is that Bodegas are more abundant than supermarkets in East Harlem, comprising 2 in 3 food stores as compared with 1 in 3 food stores in the Upper East Side (Healthy Food).

Deborah has been a resident of East Harlem for 17 years. I find her sitting on a bench in Jefferson Park, watching me walk towards her. To her, sustainability is the recent push toward healthier living. “It’s good that people are smoking less, eating less meat, more fruits and vegetables.” A 2006 health profile on East Harlem, conducted by the NYC Department of Health, shows that East Harlem ranks below average for most health indicators, as compared with 41 other NYC neighborhoods. And nearly one-third of adults in East Harlem consider themselves to be in fair or poor health (Health Profile).

Like William, Deborah talks about the heavy police presence in the area. “They’re always there on the corner with their flood lights.” We both look toward the corner at 1st ave and 112th street. There are two cops standing next to a floodlight. It’s 9 AM, and the flood light is on full power. She doesn’t like it. “It’s like we’re always being watched.” Coincidentally, she also sees fighting on the rise. “The other day, I saw two guys fighting in the street. I stopped to ask someone what happened. They were fighting about a metrocard. That’s New York though. Some people fight about metrocards. Some fight about parking.”

Deborah loves Harlem for it’s history, and a major problem she sees happening in the community is the threat to its culture. The threat, she says, comes from the luxury apartments being built around the community. “You know there’s an old fire tower in Marcus Garvey Park. They want to tear it down. These white people come in here and just…” She trails off. I tell her I understand, that there’s a difference between people coming here and assimilating and- “obliterating the culture!” she declares. A Business Insider article from 2013 indicates that the number of self-identified whites and Asians in East Harlem has doubled over the past 20 years. “Under a controversial NYCHA plan, the cash-strapped agency now proposes to lease public space in the project to private developers to build luxury housing — 20% of which must be designated for low-income families” (Business Insider).

The notion of food security is a critical one for Deborah . “I wouldn’t be here without the pantries. You wanna talk about sustainability. The pantries sustain me.” For Deborah, having access to any food is a blessing. “Harry, I’m po’.” In East Harlem, the percent of residents living below the poverty level is nearly twice as high as the rest of Manhattan and NYC overall (Health Profile).

Mrs. Velez grew up in East Harlem, and has been working at La Marqueta for 43 years. I arrived at La Marqueta for the first time and found a small market under the train tracks at Park avenue and 116th street. There were only 3 shops open in the market. Like Deborah, Mrs. Velez connects sustainability to public health. “Well they got the farmers’ markets in this area– it’s a very good idea. They show people how to use the greens. Showing people how to be healthier. That’s a very good thing to do.”

Mrs. Velez seems to think the community hasn’t changed much over the years. Yet she expresses strong opinions about the state of La Marqueta. “This market used to stretch down to 111th street. There was a fish market, a meat market, groceries, fruits, and vegetables. We don’t have this anymore.” We both look around, confirming the fact that this once-great market is not what it used to be. The reason for La Marqueta’s downfall, according to Mrs. Velez, is that there are too many supermarkets in the area. “The supermarkets took the business here, and instead of promoting the market, they say they’re going to rebuild it, but not in the same way that it used to be.” Mrs. Velez claims that they’re going to “incubate” La Marqueta. “They’re going to re-create the market, but it’ll be with food from outside businesses. La Marqueta is gone.” According to nydailynews, city council is spending 3 million dollars to upgrade La Marqueta and “reopen with a makeover” (La Marqueta).

Despite Mrs. Velez’s bleak predictions for her business and La Marqueta, she doesn’t see food security as a problem in the area. “People on welfare get vouchers to get all those greens at the market.” She then named all those big supermarkets as the places where people can get fresh produce. “You can get fresh fruits and vegetables in Costco, Pathmark, Fine Fare.” It’s obvious that Mrs. Velez feels a deep connection to the market where she’ s worked for 43 years, but she seems to have accepted that La Marqueta as she knows it is gone. There’s more healthy food in the supermarkets, and she agrees that “The fruits are fresh and good at the Farmers’ Market.” There are four farmers’ markets in East Harlem, and food stamps are accepted at all of them (Farmers’).

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After the interview with Mrs. Velez, I reconsidered my expectations for what areas of sustainability the interviewees might address. In retrospect, I wish that I had given them a bit more guidance on the question of sustainability. I would have liked to hear their opinions on the topics of recycling, renewable energy, climate change, and overall resource conservation. I suppose that being a first time interviewer in a new environment, I took a more passive role, wanting to maintain fairness in my journalistic endeavor and avoid influencing the interviewee too much. But in doing so, I think that I missed an important interviewing tip, “Be Clear on what you Want.” Well, you live and you learn.

On the other hand, I did gain a good deal of insight into the more prevalent issues in East Harlem, at least in the minds of its residents. It does seem to be a common phenomenon that more poverty stricken humans are less focused on recycling and climate change and more caught up in just trying to survive. In my final interview for this project, I spoke with a older gentleman sitting on an upside bucket in front of an apartment building next to an auto repair shop. He prefers to be identified as the Super of the building.

The Super on east 112th street has been living there since 1968. The most dramatic change he’s seen in the community is the decline of drugs. “In the 70s, there was trafficking all throughout this area.” Despite his assurance that “drugs have been minimized by 90%” he still considers it to be one of the biggest problems in the area. “It’s gotten better over the years, but still compared with the rest of New York, drugs are a problem here, says Super.” A google search of “Drugs East Harlem” confirms the Super’s account, showing numerous links to stories of police cracking down and arresting drug dealers in East Harlem.

Unanimous among my interviewees is the feeling that people do have access to healthy food in East Harlem. “If people don’t have food, they can go to the churches. They can get food stamps.” The Super’s opinion on the matter of La Marqueta is that it has declined as a result of “people from Korea planting food markets every 10 blocks from way down all the way up to 125th. That killed La Marqueta. The market was still functioning when you had supermarkets around.”

Sustainability, according to the Super, “has to do with the food that people eat and the ability to get that food.” He maintains that it isn’t much of an issue in East Harlem. “I don’t see any major catastrophe in health. For the Super, the matter of food security comes down to whether or not a person wants to be helped. “The help is available in this area and throughout New York.” According to the page for Manhattan Food Sources, there are 12 establishments working to feed impoverished peoples in need of food. To name a few: New Beginning Ministry Soup Kitchen, Beacon Youth and Family Food Pantry, and Yorkville Common Meals all accept walk-ins (Food Sources).

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Roaming the streets of East Harlem, one might be surprised to actually find a plethora of sustainable practices being conducted. Every Thursday from 8 AM to 4 PM, there is a farmer’s market right in the heart of East Harlem at 104th and 3rd ave. The market offers local produce, juices, and baked goods and accepts food stamps. Behind one of the buildings next to the market is a generously sized community garden. Similarly, there are two vegetable gardens outside the Thomas Jefferson projects. Also, along the 115th street side of the TJ projects are 6 newly planted young trees. On 3rd ave and 110th, there is a grocery store with Farmer’s Market written in big letters across the canopy out front. The store seems to be jointly owned by Mexicans and Koreans. This grocery store offers a wide variety of produce for very affordable prices and even cage free eggs. At Park Ave and 116th, one block north of La Marqueta, you will find the Urban Garden Center. There they sell all kinds of different plants, trees, and gardening equipment. There are also signs and posters up for sustainability-related events, including a Youth Marqueta, where kids can get involved with and educated about local, organic food.

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Aside from the sustainability problems in East Harlem that exist in just about every neighborhood throughout NYC, there doesn’t seem to be too much un-sustainability happening. Of course, the cars far outnumber the bikers. But you will find hundreds of people walking around the main blocks at just about any time of day. There are a handful of empty lots and store fronts scattered throughout the area. One would be hard-pressed to find any solar panels or wind turbines. There is however, an excessive amount of scaffolding structures throughout the community. They look shabby, they impede the growth of young trees, and apparently they also hamper security. Below is a link to a nydailynews article, entitled “Tear them down! Tenants at Thomas Jefferson Houses say scaffolding hampers security.”

The good people outnumber the bad apples here in East Harlem. I can say that with conviction. There is an abundance of charitable organizations, supported and run by community members for community members. This is a strong community with a vibrant and diverse culture. Surely East Harlem has its problems, but the statistics can’t show you the kinds of things you’d learn from walking the streets and talking to locals.

harry 7 -Healthy Food -Health Profile  -Firearm – La Marqueta -Farmers’ – Food Sources  -DNAinfo