The strategy below discusses how a community development organization engaged community members in a planning process to design, build and plant a community garden in an unused urban space.



NARRATIVE
As VISTA members at Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), Abigail DeAtley and Rebekah Meeks worked with teen volunteers to plan, coordinate, construct and plant an urban community garden located at AAFE's Community Technology Center, a local community center. Many of the teens recruited were from AAFE’s Teen Action program and are recently arrived immigrant youth who face the double challenge of adapting to the local language (English) as well as to the overall American culture. Designed by following a community planning process, the urban garden serves as a pilot project for the organization to determine how to best use the unused space surrounding their affordable housing developments.
NEIGHBORHOOD IMPACT
  • Since this is a recently completed pilot project, there aren’t many outcomes yet to report
  • The overall goals of urban gardens are to provide a sense of food security and also provide a great public and green space for community members
REASONS FOR IMPLEMENTATION
  • Provide AAFE residents with usable, safe, attractive and green spaces (as an organization, AAFE has over 400 units of affordable housing in New York City)
  • Expand “green” programs managed and coordinated by AAFE

GETTING STARTED
  1. Recruit volunteers to assist with the garden planning and implementation process
  2. Conduct a survey with the future users of the garden to learn about their produce and activity preferences; AAFE conducted the survey with the people that used the center the most, seniors and youth (attached below is AAFE’s Visioning survey)
  3. Visit other urban gardens in the area to gain a better understanding of what types and how plants can grow in an urban garden
  4. Coordinate a Visioning Day – Working in focus groups, establish goals of garden and a general sense of what the garden will look like and how it will be used
  5. Hold a design charette (a planning and design workshop); AAFE conducted the charette with the seniors and youth together, bridging a gap between the two age demographics. They also partnered with a local design center, the Hester Street Collaborative, and local landscape architects that were willing to provide pro bono services (attached below is presentation about charette)
  6. With the design mapped out, started building and planting garden; AAFE started building the garden in May and finished in July; Build It Green!NYC donated all the building materials (attached below are sample designs)
  7. The garden was constructed by and is now overseen by AAFE’s Teen Action Youth Group. (attached below is a timeline of AAFEs process)
SUSTAINABILITY PLAN
  • The youth group will continue to maintain the garden through a garden committee open to building tenants; three youth were hired as summer interns
  • The garden will be a model that the organization will use to expand Building Green and Healthy Communities Program
LINKS & OTHER RESOURCES

Tags: Community Building, Community Planning, Community Stabilization, Green Ideas, Leadership Development, Medium-Term Strategy, Program Development, VISTA, Youth Development

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