By Bobby Panza
Carrots, strawberries, and greens galore greeted about two dozen senior citizens at P.S. 84’s inaugural “Rooftop Garden Summer Harvest,” last Friday. Held at Goddard Riverside (Columbus Avenue and 88th Street) and co-hosted by City Councilmember Gale Brewer, it will continue till the end of the season in August. Every other Friday at 12:45 p.m., older adults are welcome to pick up free, fresh produce grown at the local elementary school, located at 32 West 92nd Street.
When school is in session, the fruits and vegetables are enjoyed by students who learn about gardening, ecology, and sustainability from Kimberly Beazer, the environmental educator and garden coordinator, who teaches pre-k through fifth grade. She also has her own ‘Beazers Garden Workshops’ for anyone else interested in urban environmental education.
A value Beazer teaches is sharing. “The program has grown over time and now we’re able to have regular harvest markets to share with our community,” she said in a phone interview with the Rag. “So, it’s been really, really great and exciting.”
P.S. 84’s rooftop garden has another name: The Fearless Garden. Beazer says it is derived from the effort put in to bring the vision to fruition. “It was such a long struggle to raise funds and get community and teacher buy-in for this type of programming,” she said. “The PTA was fearless and pushed through and really pulled it together.”
Opened in 2019, The Fearless Garden is funded by the school’s PTA and the City Council. “Not all schools can have this just yet,” Beazer explained. “Our school is super fortunate and it’s a great model for other schools to follow, because the PTA was super strong to get this going.” Beazer also credits the parent volunteer team that helps maintain the garden when the kids are out over the summer.
As for the young green thumbs of PS 84, she says they love the freedom and flexibility of being able to think and ask questions about their urban garden. It’s emerged as one of their favorite spaces, she tells us. There are eggplants and herbs, lavender, blueberries and a whole gamut of greens. There’s also an orchard with nine fruit trees, including honey crisp apples.
We asked Beazer if she’s ever tried a Cosmic Crisp apple, a tough variety to find in New York City. “Oh, we love those,” she replied. “We do a session on inheritance and traits and how we use apples as a reference for how people cross-pollinate and cross-mutate to get different varieties. I love that.”
It’s not just the fresh free food that’s bringing seniors together. A nearby neighbor, Lee Basher told us that human contact is what keeps her coming back. “My coming here is more to do with socialization,” she said. Earlier in the day Basher took an exercise class at Goddard, then went shopping before coming back to get fresh vegetables for lunch. “I can’t afford to eat out. I’ve been coming to the senior center for a long time so I know people.” Lee was happy to get some chard at the Summer Harvest event, reminding us “It’s really good for you,” while everyone might not like the bite or flavor.
City Council member Brewer was in attendance serving seniors their harvest. Brewer attributed the idea for the Rooftop Garden Summer Harvest to her Chief of Staff, Shula Puder, whom she praised as “A real chef. I mean, she can cook.” Puder was also on hand, giving out produce and fresh lemonade.
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