After an eight-month battle, residents and Stop & Shop officials are now working together to find green space in the Glendale area for a community garden.
Caroline Shadood and others started the Cypress Central Community Garden group last spring after what she said was an unimaginably tragic year for herself and many in her community.
“I think we’ve all been through a really sad and traumatizing time,” Shadood said. “Feeling connected to your neighbors and creating a community space has been one of the most healing things that I’ve participated in since coronavirus. It just feels important.”
Initially, the group of 10 residents pushing for the garden, proposed utilizing the green space attached to the Glendale Stop & Shop location at 66-64 Myrtle Ave. However, this resulted in a contentious disagreement between residents, the company and the borough president’s office.
Stop & Shop adamantly opposed using their land for liability reasons. However, the residents would not stop pursuing the lot for a community garden since there is minimal green space in the area.
“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.”
Months ago, Shadood and other residents went forward with the community garden in the Stop & Shop lot despite not having their permission. They cleaned up trash from the area and set up a few planters along the fence.
“It’s a matter of loving our community and knowing that Mafera Park is covered in astroturf and wanting something that can impact people of all ages,” Shadood said.
Shadood said communication went awry when the Queens borough president’s office offered to liaise between residents and the company but never did. This resulted in misunderstandings and tension that went on for months.
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.
A few days after QNS published a story regarding their dispute in early November, Stop & Shop reached out directly to Shadood and other residents. Now, the two parties are working together to come up with a compromise.
“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.
Stop & Shop has offered to fund a community garden, however, they will still not hand over their green space. However, no area has been reserved yet for the project.
Shadood said her group is in the process of drafting a proposal for Stop & Shop to look at. In addition, the community-based coalition will propose a composting option for residents since there is no curbside composting in their area.
The group also wants to partner with local food pantries and nonprofits to provide produce. But, most importantly, Shadood will lay out how Stop & Shop can assist them in finding a good location for the garden.
“If you’re not going to let us use your land, there has to be a greater effort in finding something in close proximity to it,” Shadood said. “We want something near this area because there aren’t any gardens near there. We want something where we live and can benefit our community.”
Despite this garden taking almost a year of activism, Shadood said they are still highly motivated to get this done.
“I think we’re all just really inspired by each other and inspired by the outpouring of support from community members of all ages, political backgrounds and ethnic backgrounds,” Shadood. “We’re motivated by everyone who wants this with us.”
Shadood said she expects to present a finalized proposal to Stop & Shop sometime this week.