How a Garden Grows Inside a NYCHA Community Center

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A garden grows inside the Astoria Houses NYCHA development. And the students who take care of it have a green thumb.

It is a hydroponics laboratory, a partnership between the HANAC Astoria Cornerstone program, New York Sun Works and the New York Power Authority. And after school, every day, kids learn about science and sustainability – and grow delicious food at the same time.


What do you want to know

  • Children grow everything from lettuce to tomatoes at a NYCHA community center
  • It’s a hydroponics lab, where they learn about science, sustainability and how to grow and prepare fresh vegetables
  • The program is a partnership between HANAC Astoria Cornerstone, New York Sun Works and the New York Power Authority.

“It’s all water-based,” said Jazmine Carr, Group Leader for HANAC Astoria Cornerstone. “So, for example, we have lettuce, dill, lavender, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, watermelons. And we harvest, we try to harvest every month.

Labs are most commonly found in schools, but this is the first site within a NYCHA Community Center.

“It’s just great to see them excited to now understand the importance of agriculture and having fresh vegetables and it’s actually made them want to eat better,” said Rafael Santana, program director for HANAC Astoria Cornerstone.

Through the program, students see how a small seed turns into a cucumber and how that cucumber turns into a pickle.

“Half the kids didn’t know that cucumbers are pickles. So that’s a lesson we’re going to learn today,” Carr said.

Carr presented them with a list of ingredients: “Salt, apple cider vinegar, crushed red peppers, mustard seeds, garlic, we’ll cut some dill.”

And the steps: carefully slice the cucumbers, then the garlic, add the ingredients and shake everything well.

Nine-year-old Blessing Byrd has high hopes for his pickles.

“I hope they taste spicy, because I like spicy stuff, and a little spicy because I don’t like sweet pickles,” Blessing said.

She says she is very excited to see the progress of a watermelon plant that has already started bearing tiny fruits.

“It was really small, but it looks like a watermelon, just in miniature,” she said.

And she is ready to see it through to the end.

“It’s gonna be cool, and then you just ate it all up,” she said.

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