Some residents have pushed to convert the empty green space next to a Stop & Shop in Glendale into a community garden since last spring. But the push has turned into a dispute between residents, the company and the Queens borough president’s office.
In February, a group of neighbors proposed to turn an empty lot next to the Stop & Shop located at 66-64 Myrtle Ave. into a community garden. The space is owned by Stop & Shop and is, therefore, private property. However, the community group still pushed to utilize the limited green space available in the city for a garden.
About 10 residents, including Caroline Shadood, took it upon themselves to clean up trash from the area and set up a few planters along the fence.
“We just want to give back to the community. There’s a lot of beautiful, private green spaces in our neighborhood but nothing quite as large as this lot,” Shadood said.
Originally, Shadood and other residents were under the impression they were on their way to securing the space for a garden. The group was working with a community outreach representative from the borough president’s office, and it seemed like everything was going smoothly. Then, in early July, there was a lock on the gate.
“We just felt slighted, to say the least,” Shadood said.
Shadood said the lot is essentially “a dumping ground.”
“Why are we just letting this sit here when the community just wants to put some flowers in?” Shadood said. “We live close by and have seen this empty, beautiful, sunny lot for years, and we’re tired of it being empty, and we want to do something that feels good for the community.”
According to Stefanie Shuman, the external communications manager at Stop & Shop, there are tons of legal reasons as to why the space cannot be used as a garden, including safety concerns. Shuman instead said Stop & Shop has been working with the borough president’s office to pay for a community garden elsewhere. However, no space has been reserved yet for the project.
“Stop & Shop remains supportive of local efforts to establish a community garden in the Glendale area, and we have offered to assist in funding these efforts at an alternative location,” Shuman said.
A spokesperson for Richards’ office told QNS they did not want to comment on the issue.
However, Shadood feels that Richards’ office and Stop & Shop have unfairly shut her and other residents out of plans for another garden.
“We know that it’s private property, but we’ve been open and communicative about wanting to work together,” Shadood said. “It feels uncomfortable. It feels sad. If they’re building a community garden [without] the community, that doesn’t make much sense.”
The group has taken to Instagram to publicly criticize the company’s practices, mostly questioning the sudden construction happening at the empty lot.
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Shuman said that the new construction is a beautification project after listening to concerns from residents about the lot being an eyesore. Stop & Shop put up a new fence and did some landscaping.
“Stop & Shop is committed to the Glendale community, which is why we have been working on the beautification of the site located at 64-66 Myrtle Ave. in partnership with the Office of the Borough President,” Shuman said.
Shadood has put together a petition that has garnered about 800 signatures. She said she is still willing to work with the borough president’s office and Stop & Shop if they would respond to the group’s attempts to open the line of communication.