Photo: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila
Built on a formerly unused lot, the Sunset Community Garden includes edible crops, pollinator plants, and native flora
Today, NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue gathered with Mayor’s Office of Urban Agriculture Executive Director Qiana Mickie, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Regional Director Patrick Foster, GrowNYC Board Co-Chair Nick Scharlatt, NYC Parks GreenThumb Chief Carlos Martinez, and community members to celebrate the opening of the brand-new Sunset Community Garden in Ridgewood, Queens.
The result of a multi-year collaboration between NYC Parks GreenThumb, NYC Department of Education, NYS DEC, GrowNYC, City Parks Foundation, and community gardeners, the new greenspace features over 30 garden beds to provide edible crops and hands-on urban gardening experience to Queens residents of all ages. The new garden supplies much-needed accessible open space in an area that, until recently, lacked access to urban community garden projects.
“This beautiful new community garden shows the power of deep, sustained collaboration,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “By working with so many partners, from City and State agencies to grassroots gardening groups, we were able to bring this fantastic resource to a neighborhood that for too long lacked access to urban gardening opportunities. Now, Ridgewood residents can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, vibrant native flora and annual flowers, and so much more.”
“It is great to be here today to celebrate a new community garden in the great community of Ridgewood,” said Mayor’s Office of Urban Agriculture Executive Director Qiana Mickie. “Community gardens are the lungs of NYC. The need for growing greenspaces and absorbing stormwater is ever critical. I applaud the efforts of both community and interagency partners like NYC Parks GreenThumb to make Sunset Community Garden a reality for this neighborhood and its residents for years to come.”
The figurative seeds for the garden were planted in 2021, when NYC Parks and DOE formalized an agreement to transform a formerly unused portion of the Grover Cleveland High School athletic fields into a temporary community garden. In 2022, NYC Parks GreenThumb and GrowNYC hosted a series of surveys and community design sessions to develop a layout for the garden, engaging over 300 community members. Following extensive site preparation by GreenThumb, GrowNYC began construction on the garden in 2022.
The new community garden features over 30 raised garden beds, pollinator plants, native grasses and shrubs, annual flowers, and fruit trees like fig and elderberry. The site also includes a rainwater harvesting shade structure with a 750-gallon tank, capable of harvesting 3,000 gallons of water a year. Additionally, a three-bin compost system with additional tumblers was installed to process neighborhood compost, and GrowNYC built an accessible pathway, benches, tables, and garden shed for gardeners and community members. This work was supported by a generous grant from the Newtown Creek Environmental Benefit Fund (NCEBF), which is administered by the City Parks Foundation on behalf of New York State DEC.
The NCEBF was the result of a 2008 settlement between New York State and New York City regarding the City’s operation of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Through a public engagement process, community members from the neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek voted to award funding for stormwater management in underutilized lands near the Newtown Creek watershed. The site that now hosts the Sunset Community Garden was one of the sites identified in the initial feasibility assessment.
“Community gardens help build stronger communities from the ground up and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation thanks the City Parks Foundation for our close collaboration and their commitment to this project,” said DEC Regional Director Patrick Foster. “The newly accessible site offers raised garden beds where pollinator plants can thrive, along with rainwater harvesting that will conserve water and state-of-the-art composting to help reduce waste. Overall, this project is a huge benefit to the community and will be a space that can be enjoyed by all.”
“We’ve been honored to be a partner to GreenThumb since 1978 in building these crucial community green spaces. Community gardens are essential to quality of life in New York City. Beyond their beauty, community gardens can increase the city’s resilience to climate change, while also connecting residents to the natural world, each other, and establishing equitable healthy food access and distribution,” said Gerard Lordahl, GrowNYC, Director of Green Space.
“We are honored to serve as administrator of the Newtown Creek Environmental Benefit Fund, which helps support projects like the Sunset Community Garden by creating more green space in this Queens neighborhood,” said Heather Lubov, Executive Director of City Parks Foundation. “By bringing government partners and communities together to identify and implement critically needed projects, we can help make our city more livable and healthy.”
“We’re proud of all we’ve been able to achieve in a relatively short amount of time, transforming a vacant lot sprinkled with trash, tall grasses, some milkweed and the occasional monarch butterfly, into the vibrant community hub that it is today,” said community gardener Geraldine Simonis. “We are deeply grateful to everyone who contributed to the realization of the garden. As we look ahead, we promise to be good stewards of this space, to be inclusive and have diverse membership. Our plans include ramping up harvests, planting trees, hosting enriching and fun programming, and even picnicking on the hill!”
“NYC Parks GreenThumb is a proud sustaining partner with hundreds of volunteer community groups across the city, stewarding publicly accessible green spaces that strengthen the fabric of our neighborhoods,” said Carlos Martinez, Chief of NYC Parks GreenThumb. “Together with community gardeners, GrowNYC, DOE, NYS DEC, and City Parks Foundation, we are excited to celebrate the fruits of this partnership through the recent opening of Sunset Community Garden, a vital hub of community, resilience, and sustainability for the Ridgewood area in Queens.”
Established in 1978, NYC Parks GreenThumb is proud to be the nation’s largest urban gardening program, sustaining more than 550 gardens and supporting 20,000 volunteer gardeners throughout New York City. GreenThumb gardens create hubs of neighborhood pride and provide myriad environmental, economic, and social benefits to the neighborhoods in which they thrive. GreenThumb’s mission is to support and educate community gardens and urban farming across the five boroughs, while preserving open space. By providing free garden materials, technical assistance, educational workshops, and seasonal programs, GreenThumb supports neighborhood volunteers who steward community gardens as active resources that strengthen communities.
This year, NYC Parks GreenThumb is celebrating 45 years of support for the city’s thriving community gardens.
For more information about NYC Parks GreenThumb, visit: nyc.gov/parks/greenthumb.