Drake Garden

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Year Established: 1997
Local Leader: Luba Maslowskyj
Community Group: Drake Garden Volunteers
NeighborSpace Partnership: 1997

In the mid 1990s the wide expanse that today is Drake Gardens was a vacant lot on the site of a former synagogue that the surrounding neighbors didn’t quite know how to utilize for the benefit of all residents. Because the space is in the middle of a dense residential block a community garden seemed natural. Once the idea took root and NeighborSpace helped secure the land, the project developed quickly.

Resident leader Luba Maslowskyj says creation of Drake Gardens was a truly special event because not only did it result in a beautiful garden, but forged a bond among the ethnically diverse neighborhood residents, many of whom had never before met one another. “Neighbors supplied help, food, encouragement and beverages,” Luba recalls. “What a sight – people of all ages working together, sweating together – many of them strangers to each other at the beginning – coming together to complete a special place for the community.”

A large sign welcomes visitors to Drake Gardens and also provides a history of the site along with a bulletin board used to post information about upcoming community events. The site is actually comprised of a number of micro gardens, each with its own unique plants and other features. Two three-piece angled screens in the center of the space provide support to climbing vines and a safe haven for nesting birds. Future improvement plans include the installation of a permanent brick walkway around the front flowerbeds. “This is a special place,” Luba says. “People have come together on this spot to enhance the spirit of community. NeighborSpace’s support has enabled us to maintain what has been built, plus provided a forum to exchange ideas and hopes.”

In Luba’s Words: “This green space has become the catalyst for change in the area by growing community through gardening. It fosters exposure to new ideas, new tools and – most importantly – new friends.”

Best Practice Idea: It can be difficult to keep people interested and involved in an endeavor after the initial enthusiasm fades. Luba recommends coming up with different ideas for activities in and around a garden – block parties, rummage sales, etc. – to help keep neighborhood interest and participation levels high.