As the rumble of the overhead tracks at 116th and Park Avenue in New York City fades after each passing train, a gentler sound emerges. Something you won’t often hear in Spanish Harlem… The happy clucking of chickens at the Urban Garden Center NYC.
Dimitri Gatanas and his crew have the goal of bringing more rooftop gardens and real food to the city, and showing residents how they can grow their own food and create healthy compost — even if all they have is a window or a fire escape. This is some ultra-creative, super-micro city farming! On select Sundays during the year, The Garden Center throws community pig roasts with live music and an incredible array of local baked goods, crafts, and art.
The Urban Garden Center folks collect food scraps, provide compost, work with CSAs and even give away trees. They are ultra purveyors of all that is good and true in the capital of the world.
Dimitri started the business with a little savings and grew it one plant at a time. It is a sprawling, fenced property beneath the trains, run on generators and open all year long. He told us that he and his wife lived in the back office while they started up.
“We started with nothing, but I believe what we have now is really something!”
These amazing community members welcomed us with open arms and generously supported our Free Range Quest by housing ALFie for us while we were visiting NYC — and now they need help!!! Sadly, the deadly blast that leveled two buildings on March 12 also nearly destroyed the store and now they are working to rebuild.
Photo courtesy Alexander Gatanas, Urban Garden Center NYC
“We are totally aware that our losses do not compare in any way to the loss that our neighbors are feeling due to their pain and suffering,” Dimitri wrote on March 17. “Our existence will brighten up this devastated part of New York City.”
A crowdfunding site has been set up to help these pioneers rebuild and continue their good work. They do what they do out of love and it has changed this community in wonderful ways.
The Urban Garden Center has that old-school New York City feeling. Some of our dearest friends live in this beautiful Harlem neighborhood and they consider the Garden Center an essential, inspiring, green refuge in the city.
You can help by clicking here to make a secure contribution or come see us at GonzoFest in Louisville and donate in person! We will be passing out some cool stuff to those making donations via our booth at the GonzoFest event in Louisville on Saturday that will go directly to The Urban Garden Center to help put this incredible community center back together — If you can help, please do — it’s vital to these wonderful people, their business, and more importantly, the community they serve.