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Community Gardens Bring Peace, Quiet, and Happiness to Urban Spaces

by Gary Bagley

As the weather warms up, over 600 community gardens will soon spring back to life at public housing developments, schools, and street corners all around New York City. Yes, they provide green space, but these gardens connect communities as neighbors share the quiet or volunteer together. And, Greenery ... Can Make Us Happier, as Gretchen Reynolds reports in the “Well” blog in the New York Times.

How did these oases form in the heart of NYC neighborhoods? The Community Garden movement started in the mid-70’s when Green Guerillas started lobbing "seed bombs" over fences around vacant lots to “green” their neighborhoods. That movement grew, and today, there are over 600 community gardeners and 20,000 garden members in the five boroughs. You can learn more about the history of community gardens on the NYC Parks & Recreation Department web site here.

If peace, quiet, and happiness aren’t benefit enough, community gardens often also provide much needed supplemental for local residents. Of the gardens registered with Green Thumb, a community gardening program managed by the NYC Parks and Recreation Department, approximately 60% produce food. Roughly half of the New York City Housing Authority’s 700 gardens, at public housing developments throughout the city, are also food-producing. At New Roots, two community gardens in the Bronx run by the International Rescue Committee, resettled refugees and their new neighbors grow healthy produce for their families, learn new life skills, and engage in activities that strengthen their multi-cultural community.

While it’s true that not everyone belongs to a community garden, there are still many ways that any New Yorker can support the green spaces in our city. On Saturday, April 16, some 4,000 volunteers will spread out across the five boroughs to clean, green and beautify 70 public parks and community gardens on the 22th Annual New York Cares Day Spring.  Sponsored for the tenth consecutive year by HSBC, a leader globally in promoting sustainability, this city-wide effort engages New Yorkers in a wide variety of activities including combating shore-line erosion and removing invasive species that threaten ecosystems.

April 16 is only the beginning of the outdoor revitalization season. Before the end of October, we estimate that more than 4,100 New Yorkers will volunteer through New York Cares on 400+ revitalization projects at public parks and community gardens throughout the city, improving the quality of life for millions of New Yorkers, who turn to these green spaces as urban oases. 

To be part of making that happen, sign up to volunteer for this New York Cares Day Spring on April 16th or year-round on dozens of garden revitalization projects.

How do you volunteer to support green spaces in your community? I’d like to hear what you do and why this is important to you. Leave me a post here or tweet me at 

Gary Bagley is the Executive Director of New York Cares.

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