Searching for a community garden in SoHo with a composting program, fruit trees and a partnership with local schools? There’s a map for that.
A brand-new online map, GardenMaps.org, launched in December 2010, to allow users to search for community gardens in New York City based on specific criteria ranging from the city council district where a garden is located and the percentage of the garden planted with edibles to the gardens offering park benches on site.
“A decade ago, we had very poor, if any, information about community gardens,” explains Lenny Librizzi, assistant director of open space greening for GrowNYC, a nonprofit environmental organization in New York that sponsors local Greenmarket farmers’ markets and advocates for local community gardening programs. “We felt that it was important for the gardens to be mapped and for the information to be available online to serve as a resource.”
The map was created based on a 2009/2010 survey by GrowNYC and GreenThumb, a community-gardening program operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. A total of 500 surveys were sent to community gardens throughout New York City, and about half responded. The map is just one component of a larger project aimed at providing a detailed overview of community gardens in the city.
A comprehensive report based on the results was released in along with the online map and includes details on the number of community gardens in the city, how many grow food and which crops have been planted, and which gardens have partnerships with schools and community groups. Among the findings:
- In 2009, there were at least 490 community gardens in New York City.
- The parks department owns 49 percent of the community gardens in New York City.
- Approximately 80 percent of community gardens in New York City grow food. Some of the urban farmers partner with local food pantries to donate fresh fruits and veggies, and several sell their produce at small farmers’ markets.
- Nearly 66 percent of community gardens in New York City compost, and 20 percent of those will accept organic waste from the public.
- Forty-three percent of community gardens in New York City partner with at least one school.
“In order to ensure the sustainability of community gardens, it’s important to know as much about the gardens in New York City as we can so that we can give community gardeners and advocates the information they need to protect them,” Librizzi explains. “We’re hoping that the media and researchers who want to delve more deeply into the importance and impact of community gardens in New York can use the research [we’ve compiled].”
Although the survey focused on the nuts and bolts of the gardens themselves—location, crops, amenities—and not on their impact on their communities, the report asserts that the 500 community gardens in New York City have enormous benefits, including improved air quality, a decreased urban heat-island effect, easy access to fresh pro¬duce, a residential connection to nature and opportunities for environmental education.
“For a long time, development was a real threat to the future of community gardens,” Librizzi explains. “We feel like this is an important piece of research to help stave off that threat in the future.
“There is constant, ongoing dialogue with community gardeners, advocates and policymakers to ensure the protection of community gardens. The report doesn’t provide answers about how this should be done, but it does provide information on why it matters.”
What would you like to learn about the community gardens in your city? Tell us on the UF forums.