Vandalism in Target Garden Shocks and Dismays Community

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On Sunday, June 19, vandals entered the Target Community Garden on Bedford Avenue, between Lafayette and Willoughby, and made a mess of the place—wrecking flowers, breaking lanterns and spewing trash all over.

The group that manages the garden was outraged and hurt by the act of vandalism.

Silvia Fiammenghi has been a member of the garden for one year. When she went to close the garden around 8:30pm on Sunday, she found it disheveled.

“I walked in and I found flowers—they were all picked, and all over the ground,” she said. “They had broken two lanterns. The glass was shattered, all over. On one of the lanterns, the metal was bent. Two chairs were left in the grass and it was about to rain, so I moved them in time. There was trash on the grass too.

“It wasn’t massive damage,” continued Ms. Fiammenghi, “but it’s upsetting. It’s a communal space and it’s a garden. It’s upsetting that people treat it that way.”

Currently, Target Community Garden is open to the public at least 20 hours per week. Anyone can walk in and enjoy the space’s peace and quiet. A nearby school for Hasidic children brings the kids there at lunchtime to play, as their building lacks a playground.

But after the incident on Sunday, some members were suggesting that the open hours be reduced. The garden’s managing group met on Wednesday afternoon to discuss how they would move forward following the vandalism.

As with any crisis, when a community mobilizes in response, it can create a renewed sense of purpose and solidarity.

Lisa Chodoroff, of the New York Restoration Project, a nonprofit organization that helps to restore parks and gardens around the city, manages the Target Community Garden and other green spaces throughout Brooklyn.

“I meet regularly with garden groups, sit in on meetings, help people get resources to run their gardens in the way they want to,” explained Ms. Chodoroff.

“It was a very positive meeting,” she said of Wednesday’s discussion.

The group called the police to report the incident, and when they arrived, they spoke to the gardeners about “enhancing patrol around the area,” Chodoroff explained.

They decided not to reduce the hours, reasoning that it was the first instance of vandalism since the garden opened in 2007. “For the most part it’s a safe place and people take ownership over it,” said Chodoroff.

“There was a Hasidic lady there and she was talking about translating some signs from English to Yiddish,” continued Chodoroff.

“Last night was the first meeting that the Community Gardening group had contact with a person in the Hasidic community,” she explained, and added, “That’s a really important thing, since that community is growing.”

The group also discussed making an educational brochure to spread awareness about the garden, share its history and let everyone know that it’s a community space for all to share.

And to show that they can walk the walk and not just talk the talk, they are “hoping to have a potluck on a Sunday in August,” said Chodoroff.

“Sundays are a good day to have events because the Hasidic community can be included (Observant Jews have a day of rest from Friday night to Saturday night).”

Another garden managed by the NYRP is the Jane Bailey Memorial Garden on Greene Ave between Franklin and Classon. This summer, they will be offering free basic yoga classes with a teacher from Brooklyn Holistic on Saturdays at 11am – unless it’s raining.

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