Five hundred feet off Yonkers Avenue on Walnut Street in Yonkers is a new community garden. And, yes, it’s part of the Old Croton Aqueduct (OCA)!
At first sight, it doesn’t look like part of the trail, just like another vacant lot, enclosed by a chain link fence that looks as if it belongs to the adjacent buildings. For years, it was filled with burdock and litter and it drove Danny Matera nuts. Mr. Matera is a native Yonkers resident. Living next to the lot, he sees it constantly. His dream: a community garden. Trouble was, he didn’t know any gardeners until he met a few at Groundwork Hudson Valley. Groundwork is a not-for-profit in Yonkers that works with neighborhoods to plant trees, clear vacant lots, make community gardens, offer a mini Farmers’ Market and operate the Science Barge, a floating urban farm on the Hudson. Groundwork has worked with NY State on several cleanups on the OCA and has played a major part in creating the newly daylighted Saw Mill River park in Yonkers.
Once Mr. Matera and Groundwork joined forces, things moved quickly. The State gave Danny a renewable permit for the lot. Groundwork’s Green Team— 26 high school teens employed each summer to create environmental improvements—quickly built 12 raised beds and filled them with compost. We brought in two water barrels and got permission from the City of Yonkers to tap into the nearby hydrant. Mr. Matera designed a large colorful sign and voila!– a thriving garden bursting with broccoli instead of burdock.