Jamaica lot suitable for community garden

By Juan Soto

The empty lot in Jamaica with its crooked, netless rims used by neighborhood kids to play hoops will not be converted into a basketball court.

Community members and a nearby church proposed a plan to transform the 3,500-square-foot lot that belongs to the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development into a basketball court.

But the idea was ruled out. Now, it seems a community garden may be the best alternative for the lot.

The rectangular piece of asphalt, decorated with two clothing donation bins near the York College campus, was slated for an affordable housing unit.

But according to HPD sources, the project to erect a building is “in the very early stages.”

Because of the housing crisis and the economic downturn of 2007 and 2008, the city agency has not been able to acquire the financing necessary to construct the affordable housing unit.

Until the economy makes a full recovery and cash flows into HPD’s budget, there are alternatives for the deteriorated pavement, at 164th Street and 107th Avenue.

The city Parks Department examined the possibility of buying the property to build a public park, but it decided the idea was not viable.

But it did offer a solution.

“The site could be eligible for interim use as a GreenThumb community garden,” a Parks spokesman said.

There are more than 600 community gardens throughout the five boroughs, according to the agency’s website.

GreenThumb was put into place as a response to the city’s financial crisis of the 1970s, when the fiscal tsunami resulted in the abandonment of public and private land.

Volunteers renovated the derelict lots and the GreenThumb program was created.

Jamaica residents, however, are upset because the real need for their neighborhood was to have a basketball court for kids and young men.

Street basketball is a religion for the city’s urban areas, where kids dream of becoming the next Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James or Kobe Bryant.

“They really want a basketball court,” said Greg Mays, founder of the nonprofit A Better Jamaica.

In case neighbors support the idea of transforming the deteriorating lot into a community garden, there are advantages for them.

For instance, once they apply officially to the Park’s GreenThumb program, the city agency will provide guidance and materials to the volunteer gardeners that would eventually do the work.

The greenspace can later be used as a place for relaxation for the community or a “full-fledged farm.”

But before all that occurs, HPD would have to approve the plan for GreenThumb.

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at jsoto‌@cngl‌ocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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