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In Queens, a garden for immigrants to put down roots

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A new initiative will bring a community garden to the space below the BQE

New Roots Community Farm in the Bronx, a project by the International Rescue Committee.
Courtesy of Kathleen McTigue/International Rescue Committee (IRC).

There are 3.2 million immigrants in New York City—the largest number in the city’s history, with a particularly high concentration of foreign-born folks in Brooklyn and Queens, according to a recent study by the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. And thanks to a new program, the city is adding more spaces for those newcomers to feel welcome and build community.

New Roots Gardens—part of an initiative by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and NYC Parks GreenThumb—provides green spaces for refugees, asylees, and other immigrant populations to build community, grow their own produce, and have access to affordable healthy food.

The program, which began in 2012 with the New Roots Community Farm at Grand Concourse and 153rd Street in the Bronx, will now bring a garden to a bridge structure on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

“We are proud to be a part of these efforts to plant the seed for a new community garden at the crossroads of one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the city,” Carlos Martinez deputy director of NYC Parks GreenThumb, said in a statement.

The structure is being developed on either side of the 69th Street overpass in Woodside, between 32nd and 34th avenues, and will have up to 10 vegetable beds and several native plant gardens, allowing IRC-assisted local refugees, immigrants, and community members to “green and cultivate the site”: not just plant and grow produce, but also participate in workshops and activities. The IRC will also develop a curriculum for local students to engage with the new space.

The new structure in Queens is also a nod to DOT efforts to create new public spaces near transportation hubs, including Diversity Plaza and Corona Plaza, and a streetscape on Parsons Boulevard, Jamaica.

“This innovative garden project experiment on a bridge, which is the first of its kind for the agency, will add a new dimension to the City’s ongoing effort to create public space around our transportation infrastructure,” DOT Queens commissioner Nicole Garcia said in a statement.

An illustration of what the new community garden will look like.
Courtesy of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC).