After two years of fundraising and campaigning, the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust (BQLT) announced plans to turn a vacant lot on the corner of Foch and Merrick Boulevards into a public green space for community members in Jamaica.
In 2011, problems arose and the fate of the lot was put into question. The Merrick Marsden Neighbors Association (MMNA), who previously owned and kept up the lot for 47 years, owed $18,000 in back taxes on the property and the city placed liens on the property. The group also had to pay interest the longer they went without paying.
Over the next two years, the MMNA and the BQLT worked together on fundraising campaigns to raise the necessary funds to keep the lot from being auctioned off. Volunteer workers, community members, as well legal help from 596 Acres, Inc. and Sullivan and Cromwell LLP helped to raise the funds to pay off the property in the summer of 2013. The MMNA gave complete ownership and control of the property over to the BQLT.
“This day has been a long time coming, and we’re excited about working with BQLT in creating a new open space and community garden in Jamaica, Queens.” said Rohan James, the president of the MMNA, in a statement on the BQLT website.
Demetrice Mills, the board president of the BQLT, was also proud of the community and the work they put in to save the lot, saying in a statement that gaining the new property was a “great day in BQLT’s history.”
The garden is expected to be open to the public sometime this summer. BQLT board members said that they want to have volunteer weekends starting in the spring through the summer so that volunteers can clean up the area and make it more presentable. Once open, community residents will be able to plant and grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. The open space may also serve as a gathering spot for social functions and an outdoor classroom for local students.
This community garden will be the 33rd green space that the BQLT owns. The organization currently owns 26 gardens in Brooklyn and seven in Queens. The new lot will be the fourth community garden to be established in the Jamaica area.