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Neighborhoods Now: Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association
This work is part of Neighborhoods Now, an umbrella initiative; learn more about it here.
Reactivation of community gardens in the South Bronx.
About Neighborhoods Now
Launched in Spring 2020, Neighborhoods Now is a collaboration between the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute to connect NYC neighborhoods hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with design firms in our collective network.
In 2021, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, The Greenest Fern, and BD Feliz joined Banana Kelly to reactivate community gardens in Longwood, Hunts Point, Morrisania, and Mott Haven, allowing for safe outdoor activities and services that address neighborhood needs.
The team collaborated with garden leaders and used Neighborhoods Now funding to hire youth organizers to become stewards and leaders in their communities and spur engagement of younger residents.
Community Garden Plans
The team assessed five community gardens on Banana Kelly properties, which each presented unique opportunities and constraints. They created site-specific visions for each garden, plus toolkits that can be deployed across many sites. Visions range from the simple—such as turning readily available buckets into modular rolling garden beds—to complex, such as creating new and ADA-accessible access points that require negotiation with an adjacent property owner, now in progress.
Transformation and Activation
Through an arrangement with New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Banana Kelly plans to acquire a vacant lot on East 163rd Street. Transformation and activation strategies ranged from rearranging garden bed layouts to dynamically fit real-time needs, to building kiosk structures for information sharing and sun protection.
BD Feliz developed a series of vinyl stickers to optimize wayfinding and enhance gardens’ visibility on the street. The markers can be easily installed or removed at a moment’s notice to guide visitors to entrances and contribute to the greater garden identity.
The Sustainability Index Plan (SIP), developed by The Greenest Fern, is a guide to facilitate the long-term planning of community gardens as well as the sustainable reporting and management of these spaces.