Wednesday, June 10, 2009

THE EARTH MOVES IN PUBLIC HOUSING: Good Grows Across the Street from New High-Rises -- Community Filmmaking Entry 6/10/09

In July 2009 Brooklyn Young Filmmakers plans to shoot a short narrative film. We are inviting local residents to be involved in our “Community Filmmaking”. This weekly blog column will keep you updated on our next steps, introduce you to the volunteers and students already involved, and let you know how you might get involved.

What are you seeing? Sure, some happy kids shoveling wood chips at the new Ingersol Houses Community Garden -– But what is that lumpy shape on the left? Above the shoulders of the first two children! Has some intergalactic species landed in Fort Greene?!......No?……Ok, it’s only an international species: The Tree Huggers .

The Tree Hugger Project, created by two Polish artists, was the featured environmental art project at the 2008 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Poland. The sculptures, made from twigs, branches, vines, sticks, and other natural materials, are meant to remind us that humans are still very much part of the natural environment. One of the installations at the conference was “Lonely Tree, Lonely People”. A line of woven tree hugger sculptures stood in front of a tree and passers by were invited to join the long line -- and think for a moment about what it would feel like if there was only one tree left to hug. You can look at pictures of the lines: .

The special Tree Hugger installation above is called “The Red Balloon – A Homage to Marc Chagall”. To see the tree from the other side to get the red balloon part: ( ). Trees are a wonderful thing. I like to hang from trees. I like the image of a black man hanging from a tree being replaced; replaced by the image of a family hugging a tree in pursuit of a rising red balloon.
But anyway, how did the Tree Huggers get to Ingersol Houses?
Well, the creation story is that the Tree Huggers were installed in Fort Greene as the kick-off for Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project (MARP) new public art initiative ( . The installation above is in the new Ingersol Community Garden, which is located on Myrtle Avenue ( two blocks up from Flatbush between Prince and Navy). The second Tree Hugger installation in Fort Greene is near the campus of public housing on the green island triangle at Myrtle and Carleton. Go take a look!

Kate Briquelet, a reporter for the New York Times Fort Greene blog, shot a video of the garden groundbreaking ( .
She stands deep in the wood chips with Blaise Backer, MARP Director

Clap!-Clap! And Three Ra’s!!!!!!!
Ra! For MARP
Ra! For the Ingersol Tenants Association

Ra! For the NYCHA Ingersol Houses Grounds Keepers

Brooklyn Young Filmmakers Center is happy to continue* with our applause for other local organizations that are bringing creative activities to the campus of Fort Greene public housing. These activities are pleasing both public housing residents and their neighbors from the surrounding Fort Greene community, and creating a mutual comfort zone where all can meet and dialogue.

The Ingersol Community Garden crew
paint signs and haul wheelbarrows

For more Ingersol Community Garden pictures:

* Two weeks ago we applauded South of the Navy Yard Artists for adding a site on the campus of public housing to their annual SONYA Stroll (a tour of artists studios and public spaces featuring their artwork):


I got a late start on the morning of Saturday, June 6th. At 10:20 am I pulled my bike up next to a line of bikes leaning against the iron fence next to the new Ingersol Community Center on Myrtle. In the wide green lot that the iron fence surrounds, a table was set up under a portable awning. Spread across the field, involved in different tasks, I counted ten people. I was happy, until I looked closer. I realized that there was only one black person. She looked like she was a retired person, everyone else was younger.

I checked in at the table and was put on the task of helping to drill and screw the planks to make raised garden beds. When I had a chance, I went over to the other black woman and spoke to her off to the side.

“Hi. A beautiful day, right. This is a beautiful thing. But you’re the only one! You’re from Ingersol, right? I live on S. Elliott, hey. This is such a good thing! Where is everyone? Do you think they’re going to come?!"

I learned that the woman I was talking was Edie Tucker (she’s in the picture above of the four women – the one holding the round decorative stone).

Edie: I’m glad to see you! I was wondering when someone else would come -- you know what I mean.

"Everyone here is nice, and it's great they turned out to work. But we need some folks from here-here. You know if they don’t turn out, the talk around here tomorrow will be, 'Oh the white folks are even taking over our yard now to make their garden.' "

Edie: Oh yeah. But we have been meeting and talking about this. I’m hoping people start coming out as it gets later.

We both went back to work. I enjoyed shoveling the compost, then wheeling it over to dump in the new beds. I love community gardening in a big city. We need physical grounding in both our bodies and spirits that only earth can provide. We all need this grounding if we want to be able to make meaningful changes in our lives – especially if we have scant economic resources and are up against so many odds.

As I shoveled and chatted with whoever was working at my side, new gardeners continued to join us. Color flowed in of all ages; kids, kids with parents and senior citizens. Ingersol Houses was well represented when I left a couple of hours later.

You can only know how beautiful this all was, if you know the anguish that residents in Fort Greene public housing have experienced. They watched helpless as their inexpensively priced stores that were conveniently located across the street, were torn down and replaced by luxury high-rises. The shadows that these new imposing structures cast over public housing can give you the feeling that, some time soon, everything’s going to be taken over.

Working in the Ingersol Community Garden was like saying: “Hey, wait. Something grows in public housing that everyone can care about. We don’t feel like we live shadowed existences when we put our hands into the soil and plant our future."

I spoke after this first gardening day to Meredith, MARP Director of Community Development, who along with Joanne, a co-worker, have been the MARP foot soldiers moving this project along.

Meredith: We’ve been working with the Ingersol Tenants Association for a while trying to get this going. Then we got a grant and the donation of wood and compost from the New York City Housing Authority. We’re dreaming that this is the first of many community gardens on the campus of public housing. There are so many green fields between the buildings!

The Ingersol Tenants Association has been committed to the project from the beginning. And Hiram Mendez, the Ingersol groundskeepers superintendent, and his staff, are our “Super Stars”! They drove their truck to the Bronx and picked up the load of compost. They then drove the truck as close to the Ingersol garden site as they could and dumped the load of compost on the ground. Next they used their tractor in a number of back and forth trips to move the compost to the garden site.

Well there you have it, how the earth was moved in public housing.

It’s nice when you have your own backyard and can sit outside in the most casual clothes on a hot night, barbecuing and storytelling. But when you don’t got, there’s community gardens. I helped to start a garden on a vacant lot years ago on Dean Street when I lived in Park Slope, and I worked for two years with the community garden on Dekalb, between S. Elliott Street and S. Portland. New York’s community gardeners are also community activists who see gardens as a bridge between people.

I grow a garden in front of the building I live in on S. Elliott (see last week’s blog entry for a report on my visit to the Fort Greene Park Greene Market to look for plants -- and my subsequent shock: ). I know growing a garden that’s right on a public street is as big a passer by pleaser as having a baby or a dog.

C’Allah and I have started talking about how wonderful it would be this summer to screen Brooklyn Young Filmmakers films in the Ingersol Community Gardens. I’m gonna bring up that idea at: the next Ingersol Community Garden meeting this Saturday, June 13th at 10:30am. Hope you can join us. You can call MARP for more information (718) 230-1689.

( I am reminded of our high hopes for bringing people together when I watch the awesome "The Sound of Music at Central Station in Belguim" video: )

Myself and C’Allah Coombs, a BYFC board member and
Whitman Houses resident, help to move the earth in
the new Ingersol Community Garden

BYFC SCAVENGER HUNT: Do a green thing by donating saleable items that you are not using to Brooklyn Young Filmmakers for resale at our June 27th stoop sale to help us fund our July film project (that’s one way to get your name in the film credits!). We are now accepting donated items for our sale. If you would like to make a donation, contact us at: (718)935-0490.

NEXT WEEK: The BYFC Community Casting Call for "THE WAITING ROOM"

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