A lot on the corner of Stockton Street and Lewis Avenue has been receiving lots of love from Bushwick City Farm and neighborhood volunteers over the last few months, and it’s quickly taking shape as a public park that will produce free food for the community.
The 9,000-square-foot lot had been abandoned for 30 years and was a place of illegal dumping, squatting, and violence, which came to a head with a homicide involving a rusty shovel last summer. Seeing an opportunity to green another space, Bushwick’s guerrilla urban farmers, led by Masha Radzinsky and Vincent Olsen, waited a while, and then they moved in.
The police have not said a word, and the locals are excited. “The first questions we got were not, ‘How are you in here?’ it was ‘When are the chickens coming?’” said Radzinsky. “Everyone knows we don’t own that land, we don’t pay rent. And nobody minds.”
The Stockton Street lot is about five times bigger than the Broadway farm, where the hens are laying a steady stream of eggs, and the plan for it is grand. It will feature an area to house a flock of at least 50 chickens; a big vegetable garden; an organic orchard with apple trees, peach trees, and fig trees; and a recreational area with native plants and a field.
“There’ll be enough space for kids to kick a ball around or for people to picnic on,” said Radzinsky. “We’ll continue to host our various workshops, and I’ve talked to a local yoga teacher about possibly giving yoga classes on the future field.”
Since April, the garbage and rubble have been hauled out, the ground has been leveled and covered in woodchips, and a 100-foot-long fence around the lot has been completed, with flowers, shrubs, magnolias, and other greenery planted along it. Now, the chicken coop is being constructed at their woodshop on Troutman Street; next, the veggie beds.
“By fall, the farm will be fully functioning and will look like it’s going to look,” said Radzinsky, but in the meantime, $5,000 is needed to buy 72 yards of clean topsoil, supplies, and fruit trees. “We really need people to donate because we can’t do this without the soil,” she said.
Elsewhere in the area, Bushwick City Farm has started work on another vacant lot in the housing projects on Stagg Street between Union Avenue and Lorimer Street. It’s also in negotiations with housing organization RBSCC about greening some lots, such as the slice of land between Bushwick Avenue and Beaver Street, but progress has been slow.
Radzinsky says she’s looked over the property records for the Stockton Street lot, and with so many fines and violations hanging over it, “I think we’re gonna have it for a long, long time.”
“Picnics in Bushwick – get ready for it.”
Visit the Stockton Street farm on Fridays and Saturdays (3:30pm – 7pm) to get your hands dirty.