“We told them we needed until midnight to get everything done and decided to throw a little party to kind of open up the space for the last time and show the neighborhood what becomes possible when people consolidate their efforts, put a vision together,” said organizer Clark Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald was joined in the late afternoon by about a dozen other Ridgewood residents, all of whom were mourning the loss of the space at Woodbine Street and Onderdonk Avenue, but celebrating the community effort.
There was tea and coffee provided by the nearby Topos Bookstore, refreshments provided by Finback Brewery, and a barbecue manned by the Ridgewood Tenants and Neighborhood Association.
The party was a chance to say goodbye to the space, but it also recognized those in the community that made an effort over the last month to reimagine the vacant lot.
In total, Fitzgerald said a petition to save the garden received about 800 signatures online and in print, although he conceded there was probably some overlap between the two.
“It’s been a great turnout, everyone has been super supportive and really vocal on the phones and online,” Fitzgerald said.
He was not happy, however, with the MTA’s response to the petition.
“What I’m really surprised at is the MTA’s total ignorance and unwillingness to negotiate in the face of an outpour of community support,” Fitzgerald said.
Because of how quickly the MTA moved to ask gardeners to vacate the space, Fitzgerald said they hadn’t come up with an alternative plan and were in the early stages of discussing what to do.
“We’re still doing a preliminary survey, obviously they caught us off guard,” he said. “We really hoped the last two weeks we would have been able to reach an agreement with them.“
The focus now shifts to finding that second site.
“Right now we do have a firm promise from Councilman [Antonio] Reynoso’s office and Assemblywoman [Cathy] Nolan’s office that we’ll find a space together that’s suitable for the community garden and secure that legally through their offices, which is fantastic,” Fitzgerald said. “So we’re beginning the search now and hopefully have that around next year by planting season.”