MTA Locks Up Community Garden, Citing Ownership, Safety Issues

Tucked away in the shadow of the elevated M-line subway tracks in Ridgewood, Queens is a green oasis sitting in the middle of brick and concrete.

It used to be a dirty lot filled with overgrown weeds and growing trash piles until the community decided to clean it up. Neighbors planted flowers and vegetables, and hope sprouted for residents like J, who has called Ridgewood home for more than 20 years.

"It's looking nice. The neighborhood is looking nice," said J, who did not give her last name.

But then the MTA found out, and it padlocked the gate to the garden. The MTA said it owns the plot of land and a spokesman said in an email, "They are trespassing and have until Aug. 3 to vacate. Setting up a garden underneath our structure would hamper us from getting to our structure in case of an emergency."

Now weeds are growing again and the peppers, tomatoes and squashes the neighbors worked hard to grow are withering. But the community's passion is not.

"We realized through doing it, it's really important for the community because of how much support we've gotten, that there is a middle ground there," said Konstantin Prishep.

The community is refusing to give up and wants a dialogue with the MTA. Prishep said they want to work with the MTA for the good of the community.

"We don't want to antagonize anyone we just want to find a way that path that could accommodate us here," explained Prishep.

"Let us try to help our community to clean it up. Or try to help us, too, to clean it up," said J.

But the MTA simply said: "No discussion."

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