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Year established: Summer 1988
Local Leader: Marjorie Isaacson
Community Group: East Village Association
NeighborSpace Partnership: August 13, 1998
What was once a vacant lot used for ad hoc parking and trash dumping is now Frankie Machine Garden. Marjorie Isaacson has been involved in the community even before this garden was “born.” Her focus on this property was due to her and other residents’ desire to get it cleaned up and transformed into something the community could actually use. It took determination and tenacity to push through the bureaucratic red tape but eventually the East Village Association (a volunteer neighborhood organization) obtained the title to the property. After more than two years of pushing to get “not-for-profit” status and eventually being turned down, they decided to partner with NeighborSpace.
The garden now thrives and the food produced from it helps feed the community. The individual lots are assigned on an annual basis to neighborhood residents who request one and pay a nominal donation to help cover costs. The gardeners use only organic fertilizers and work together to clean up and maintain the garden’s overall appearance. It provides an “escape” in a flourishing part of the city.
In Marjorie’s words: To do this, you “must make an enormous commitment of time and energy.” As a site manager, one should be “ready to be more of an administrator vs. a gardener.” One of the benefits of this garden is that it provides the community with a space to have “positive connections with people. People can meet on equal footing [because] the fruits of your labor are shown.” In the garden, it’s the gardening that counts.
Further, while NeighborSpace can mitigate the burdens of ownership and leverage in the liability insurance it provides to land it protects, Marjorie was drawn to this partnership because “I believe in the NeighborSpace philosophy.”
Best practice idea: Before developing a garden site, Marjorie says “talk to the community and get commitment on who will handle maintenance.” It’s important to gauge interest and focus on some of the details early on in the process. She also notes that for some people to get involved flyers and meetings alone won’t work — They need to see the garden, hear about it from a friend, or understand how they might benefit from it.