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Astoria Residents Aim to Turn Empty Lot Into Community Garden and Educational Space

Astoria Urban Agriculture Alliance’s vision for The Sitting Area space (Courtesy of Bianca Bibiloni and Kyra Cuevas)

Oct. 27, 2020 By Allie Griffin

A group of Astoria residents hosted an event Saturday to garner support for the transformation of a long-neglected lot into a community garden for neighbors in the area.

The newly-formed Astoria Urban Agriculture Alliance (AUAA) is working to create a shared community garden and educational space out of an asphalt lot on Hoyt Avenue North between 19th and 21st Streets.

The group hosted a kick-off event at the lot, known as The Sitting Area, over the weekend to invite residents to learn about their plans for the community garden.

The group wants to revitalize the public lot by planting small gardens in its empty tree pits and painting a mural on the asphalt.

When complete, the urban green space will serve as an educational hub with skill sharing, community building and gardening lessons, AUAA said.

The community group hopes to help neighbors learn how to cultivate plants in small spaces and how to use them, as well as increase the number of native agriculture and pollinators in Astoria.

The Sitting Area as it looks today (Courtesy of Bianca Bibiloni)

“Our vision is to create a collaborative public space where people from all backgrounds and cultures can enjoy community gardening while addressing environmental sustainability, food justice, the need for more public outdoor spaces, and the impact of COVID-19 on our lives,” said Evie Hantzopoulos, Co-founder of Astoria Urban Agriculture Alliance, longtime resident, and avid gardener.

The plans for transforming the lot have been approved by the NYC Parks Department and presented to the Queens Community Board 1 Parks Committee, AUAA said.

Roughly 200 people visited the lot throughout the day on Saturday to pick up free seeds, pots and soil and exchange urban gardening tips. Locals offered lessons on soil, bokashi compost and cardboard box composting at the event as well.

Astoria Fridges — which spearheaded the creation of community fridges full of free food — also collected food to stock its refrigerators at the kick-off.

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