Gerritsen Beach lies on a peninsula in the southeastern part of Brooklyn that juts into Jamaica Bay, an 18,000-acre wetland sanctuary. Jamaica Bay's salt marshes are eroding at an alarming rate as a result of nitrogen pollution and rising sea levels. Due to the neighborhoods proximity to the wetlands, Gerritsen Beach is prone to flooding. In 2012, when Hurricane Sandy struck, flood waters reached a recored 10-12 ft. Almost all homes in Gerritsen Beach were damaged by sea water. The neighborhood is now classified as a Zone A flood zone.
Our team is in the process of turning the empty lot next to the Gerritsen Beach Library into a Victory Garden. A Victory garden is an urban farm. Victory Gardens once supplied 40% of the city's food. The term, Victory Garden, was first used in the WWII era. It was used to describe urban farming initiatives encouraged by the federal government and executed at a local level. These efforts made local communities more food secure in a time of scarcity. We are currently facing another global crisis due to COVID-19. New York City was already in a food crisis before coronavirus. 2.5 million people were grappling with food insecurity. Now, that number has risen to over 3 million.
The Gerritsen Beach Victory Garden will include community beds, a chicken coop and a series of rainwater gardens. Rain water gardens will help protect the space from flooding and attract pollinators. Community beds will be open to all who want to be stewards of the space and produce food. The chicken coop will also help us produce food and support the garden through compost production.
In 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated New York City. The Gerritsen Beach public library was closed due to severe water damage. Almost a year later, the library was reopened with brand new facilities. A total of 1.5 million was spent on renovations. The library is still susceptible to flooding. It's proximity to the Shell Bank Canal increases the possibility of major flood damage. In general, New York City will be seeing an increase in storm frequency and intensity due to climate change. Gerritsen Beach is unprepared for another major storm. The creation of rainwater gardens will help manage excessive stormwater and improve water quality in local waterways. A rainwater garden will be built along the northwest perimeter of the victory garden to prevent the area from flooding. A system of water ways will lead stormwater to a basin at the center of the Gerritsen Beach Victory Garden, which will be planted with native grasses and wildflowers to attract pollinators. Plants will also be chosen based on their ability to gradually absorb and filter stormwater.
Food should be right for all people, this can be done through a local food system. Having space to cultivate food is an important step to meet the food needs of a population. We envision dozens of garden beds in this space growing all kinds of food. We are building these beds out of reclaimed wood from junk pallets. By repurposing these pallets, we're saving them from the land fill and building in an economically efficient way. Once the beds are built, the gardening process will be streamlined. The only maintenance required will be adding compost, planting seeds, and weeding. We want to do our part in establishing this space and making sure the community is part of this process.
Chickens were domesticated thousands of years ago and have been a part of agriculture since. Hens are amazing providers with their almost limitless supply of eggs. Usually animal agriculture is separated from plant cultivation but this isn’t how a thriving ecosystem should function. In nature, plants and animals are all interconnected with their environment. We hope to mimic nature on our farm and have plants and animals integrated into one system. Chicken’s create waste in the form of nitrogen and if composted properly this nitrogen can be used by plants. Compost is essential for building soil and cultivating plants. Our vision for this location is to have chickens make compost for the garden and eat food waste from local business and residences.