Ridgewood welcomes new community garden at old Grover Cleveland High School lot

Sunset Community Garden in Ridgewood
Photo by NYC Parks / Daniel Avila

The official opening celebration of the brand-new Sunset Community Garden in Ridgewood welcomed Mayor Eric Adams’ Office of Urban Agriculture, city and state agencies and environmental-focused programs on Friday. Oct. 27.

The formerly unused Grover Cleveland High School lot, located at the intersection of Willoughby Avenue and Onderdonk Avenue, was officially transformed into a modern city green space for the community.

“This beautiful new community garden shows the power of deep, sustained collaboration,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “By working with so many partners, from city and state agencies to grassroots gardening groups, we were able to bring this fantastic resource to a neighborhood that for too long lacked access to urban gardening opportunities. Now, Ridgewood residents can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, vibrant native flora and annual flowers and so much more.”

Park Officials from City and State agencies, alongside environmentally conscious organizations celebrate the opening of Sunset Community Garden in Ridgewood. Photo by NYC Parks / Daniel Avila

Officials joining Donoghue at the opening included the Mayor’s Office of Urban Agriculture Executive Director Qiana Mickie, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Regional Director Patrick Foster, GrowNYC Board Co-Chair Nick Scharlatt and NYC Parks GreenThumb Chief Carlos Martinez.

The completion of the multi-year project to bring a community garden to Ridgewood features over 30 garden beds, pollinator plants, native grasses, shrubs, annual flowers and fruit trees like fig or elderberry, according to NYC Parks. The garden also possesses a rainwater harvesting share structure with a 750-gallon tank, capable of harvesting 3,000 gallons of water a year.

Gaining an extra greenspace in the city, especially in Ridgewood, benefits residents as a whole, Mickie explained.

“It is great to be here today to celebrate a new community garden in the great community of Ridgewood,” said Mickie. “Community gardens are the lungs of NYC. The need for growing greenspaces and absorbing stormwater is ever critical. I applaud the efforts of both community and interagency partners like NYC Parks GreenThumb to make Sunset Community Garden a reality for this neighborhood and its residents for years to come.”

The new community garden features over 30 raised garden beds with a variety of plants and flowers expected to only grow. Photo by NYC Parks / Daniel Avila

In 2021, NYC Parks and the Department of Education formalized the agreement to transform the unused portion of Grover Cleveland High School athletic fields into a community garden. Construction on the garden began last year, with site preparation done by two environmental-focused city organizations.

The NYC Parks GreenThumb, the nation’s largest urban gardening program, and GrowNYC, an environmental nonprofit in the city, conducted surveys with over 300 community members to develop the layout for the garden and followed through on the project until completion.

“NYC Parks GreenThumb is a proud sustaining partner with hundreds of volunteer community groups across the city, stewarding publicly accessible green spaces that strengthen the fabric of our neighborhoods,” said Martinez. “Together with community gardeners, GrowNYC, DOE, NYS DEC and City Parks Foundation, we are excited to celebrate the fruits of this partnership through the recent opening of Sunset Community Garden, a vital hub of community, resilience and sustainability for the Ridgewood area in Queens.”

A three-bin compost system with tumblers was also installed at the garden to process compost from the neighborhood, according to NYC Parks. On top of the array of greenery, pathways, benches, tables and a garden shed represent a major part of the new community space.

The construction for the garden initially began last year. Photo by NYC Parks / Daniel Avila

The accomplishment from the involved parties was further emphasized through Geraldine Simonis, a community gardener who spoke on what the garden brings to the community moving forward.

“We’re proud of all we’ve been able to achieve in a relatively short amount of time, transforming a vacant lot sprinkled with trash, tall grasses, some milkweed and the occasional monarch butterfly, into the vibrant community hub that it is today,” said Simonis. “We are deeply grateful to everyone who contributed to the realization of the garden. As we look ahead, we promise to be good stewards of this space, to be inclusive and have diverse membership. Our plans include ramping up harvests, planting trees, hosting enriching and fun programming, and even picnicking on the hill!”