There’s a reason why a northern quarter of Brooklyn is called Carroll Gardens – the area is one of the greenest neighborhoods in all of New York City. Carroll Gardens is home to no less than seven community green spaces, all within spitting distance of each other. The area’s public gardens originally started as a community-fueled project to clean up the neighborhood and give the area a new image. What started as a single volunteer-created park sparked a gardening hobby all across the Columbia Street waterfront. Last weekend, we got a chance to stroll around the parks in the area - sit back and enjoy our photos and be sure to visit one or all of these gardens afterwards for yourself!
Human Compass Garden
The Human Compass Garden, located at the corner of Sackett and Columbia Street, was the first community green space established in the area 21 years ago. At first, the project started as a community project to clean up an abandoned lot in a neighborhood plagued with crime and drugs. Over time, the group of volunteers clearing the lot realized the need for a neighborhood public and green space. Today, the garden is a lush park with reclaimed brick-lined beds containing more than two dozen trees and shaded plants to create a sheltered green refuge.
Founded fifteen years ago at Carroll and Columbia Streets, the Amazing Garden was started by amateur gardeners with the help of Green Thumb. The garden is home to 17 shared beds full of plants and vegetables grown by green enthusiasts. On top of providing the community with a place to grow vegetables and flowers, the Amazing Garden also hosts regular school field trips to teach children about where their food comes from. The garden also uses the tall, whitewashed wall of a neighboring building as a projector screen for public film nights.
Summit Street Garden
At first glance, the Summit Street Garden looks like an out of control patch of overgrowth, but that’s just because it’s one of the most vibrant and diverse green spaces on the Columbia Street strip. Situated near the corner of Summit Street, the park first opened 20 years ago with just nine beds before quickly realizing it needed many, many more to keep up with the popularity of community gardening in the neighborhood. Here you’ll find a variety of plantings including a peach tree, two grapevines, and a peculiar silver-colored bush known as an artemisia silver mound.
Pirates Cove Garden
With a long lane of grass that would be perfect for a game of shuttle ball, Pirate’s Cove is the newest garden in the neighborhood, established this very summer. Started by a small group of friends, the garden was named after a very special neighborhood dog “Pirate” that lived next door to the vacant lot. The vision for the park which is located in a tight alley on 313 Columbia Street, near Woodhull Street, is a dog and people friendly lawn with seating along the sides. There is also an ever-increasing number of raised gardening beds where some planters are already growing kale, spinach and squash.
The Backyard Garden is the largest community garden in the neighborhood, spread across six building lots. Half of the 15-year-old community green space is dedicated to 24 growing pods for flowers and other edible vegetables. Meanwhile the other three lots of the park was left to design an elaborate landscaping project that features a round meeting area called the ‘Labyrinth,” a small tunnel, and a short footpath around the park. You can find the Backyard Garden on Can Brunt and Hamilton Streets.
Urban Meadow is another one of the newer gardens in the area established just five years ago. In that short time, there has been constant work on greening the lot previously home to a 100-year-old church on President and Van Brunt Street. Unlike the other gardens in the area, Urban Meadow is planted with only native plants including cattails and poplar trees. Currently, there are also four chickens roaming around the park grounds after being made homeless by Hurricane Sandy (if you are curious their names are Hillary, Black Betty, Cookie Dough, and Crème Puff). The garden also hosts many events including the upcoming Columbia Waterfront Halloween Parade, Spring Egg Hunt, and most famously, the Red Hook Jazz Festivals.
South Brooklyn Children’s Garden
Urban farming is the South Brooklyn Children’s Garden’s main mission. The garden just started a year ago in a joint project between three local public schools. The Children’s Garden, located on the opposite corner of the Human Compass Garden at Sackett and Columbia Streets, represents a much more focused green project with a mission to provide an educational space for local kids to learn more about gardening, where their food comes from, and to get first hand experience of how the environment can affect every living thing around us. Most of the Children’s Garden is dedicated to raised growing plots for a variety of editable greens including cantaloupes, peppers, and eggplant.
One of the garden’s more unique features is a green house made with panels signed with the word peace in 75 different languages created by Sarah Chamberlin. Towards the back of the garden you can also spot the garden’s specialized composting center filled with 2,000 red worms all individually named by local children in a bug festival.
A Green Future
Over the years, the most of the individual gardens have been incorporated into the Parks Department, making the permanent fixtures in the neighborhood and in the eyes of the city. However, the eventual goal for is to group all the parks under the wing of one umbrella organization. Claire Merlino, a woman who modestly calls herself one of the founding members of the Carroll Garden parks, says that although all the green spaces are too busy maintaining the gardens themselves, they hope to create a singular representing group that one day might be called the Columbia Waterfront Community Gardens.
Images © Kevin Lee for Inhabitat
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