By VANESSA CAMARGO
They call it GrowNYC, a non-profit organization that tries to improve New York City’s quality of life through environmental programs. It is a hands-on organization that renovates community blocks. It also encourages local residents to play a role in maintaining a clean and healthy environment for future generations.
GrowNYC originated in the 1970s as the Council on the Environment of New York City. The organization was inspired by the first Earth Day. At first the Council wrote comprehensive reports about the quality of life issues like air quality, traffic, and noise. It was merely a policy-based association. Now GrowNYC has helped to establish a successful greenmarket industry, to build and restore gardens, to assist the public become more conscious of recycling habits and routines, and much more.
The greenmarket was established in 1976. It had two missions, which were to promote local agriculture by providing small family farms with the opportunity to sell their regionally grown products directly to consumers, and to guarantee that all New Yorkers have easy access to the freshest, most nutritious locally grown food the region has to offer.
Over thirty years ago, it all started with just 12 farmers in a parking lot on 59th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. Now it has grown to become the biggest and most diverse outdoor urban farmer’s market system in the country. There are now 53 markets, over 230 family farms and fishermen participants, and over 30,000 acres of farmland protected from development.
Since the creation of the greenmarket, the relationship between farmers and city residents has changed rural communities and urban spaces. There is an improvement in consumer health and people who are in need of fresh and nutritious food can get it through the organizations EBT/Food Stamp and Youth-market program. The market has also helped support immigrant farmers, educate school children and city residents about regional agriculture importance, provide an opportunity for medium sized farms, and influenced chefs and local eaters in one of the most popular and famous cities in the world.
Building Community Gardens
GrowNYC also has an Open Space Greening program. It was founded in 1975 by Liz Christy. The Open Space Greening program builds and helps maintain local community gardens, school gardens, and rainwater harvesting around New York City. Over 60 community gardens have been built or revived by the program. The program has also continued to work with schools, public housing associations, and neighborhood groups. The groups try to transform open and empty land into lively public spaces that can grow food, provide valuable open space, and serve as an active classroom for New York City children.
GrowNYC and the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City launched Grow to Learn in 2010. Grow to Learn is a Citywide School Gardens Initiative. It is a resource for any public school interested in building, maintaining, and operating a school garden. They also have a Grow Truck program that delivers free tool loans to neighborhoods with greening projects. There is also an Annual Plant Sale that is provided at the greenmarket. They have vegetables, herbs, and flower starters for community gardens, schools, and block associations.
GrowNYC has also helped develop the Office of Recycling Outreach and Education. OROE was created when the City Council passed Mayor Bloomberg’s landmark Solid Waste Management Plan in 2006. The main purpose of OROE is to increase contributions in New York City’s recycling program using a working class, neighborhood strategy. Each region has a Recycling Outreach Coordinator who identifies the challenges of recycling in a neighborhood and he/she addresses those needs with workshops for tenants and supers. There are community events that center on this kind of education and have special collection programs for textiles, electronics, and compost. GrowNYC’s participants help build a group of elected officials, residents, block associations, and other neighboring people who can be called on to help promote recycling and waste prevention.
The Environmental Education programs get kids involved. The programs teach kids how to plant trees, build gardens and grow vegetables. It also teaches students how to recycle properly and how to eat healthy. Their four core education programs engage children from all of New York City’s five boroughs.
Vanessa Camargo is a Junior/Transfer in her first semester at Ramapo College. She graduated from County College of Morris with an Associate’s Degree. Her major is Communications with a Concentration in Journalism. She intends on graduating at the end of the Fall semester in 2013 with her Bachelor’s. She aspires to become a professional journalist with a job/career in the City.