Community Greens

People of all colors discussing evergreen ideas.

Black History in NYC Parks


I volunteered in the Crotona Park Garden when I was a kid. My mother, when she was 75 years old, mentioned how for years, my brother and I would bring home, “shopping bags full of vegetables from the garden”. She also added, “You boys didn’t realize how much of a help you were to me as a single mom during some difficult times. You stayed out of trouble and put food on the table. I just want you to know that”.

My mom passed away a few years ago at 95 but I will always remember she appreciated my brother and I participating in a NYC Parks Garden Program.

If you know something about Black History in NYC Parks click the link below.

Got a park memory related to Black History month? Forward it and I’ll post it. Thanks.

https://www.nycgovparks.org/about/history/black-history-in-NYC-parks

Filed under: African-American, Arts & Culture, Black History, Blacks, Community Green, Gardening, It Takes A Village, ,

Growing Up Morrisania: Kids Eat Radishes

radishes

The tenement basement I lived in was midway between Public School 63 and Crotona Park. I walked to P.S. 63 at an early age and, given the distance, my brother and I were allowed to go to the park on our own. Mom would often take us to picnic in the park. She would pack sandwiches, salads and the Sunday paper in a shopping cart and off we’d go. She would spread a blanket on the grass and we’d spend pleasant afternoons napping under a tree. She’d keep an eye on us from the nearest bench because she never sat on the blanket. She dreaded insects but didn’t miss an opportunity to take us to the park. It was “outside” and a stark contrast to living “under the steps” of our apartment building. When, we were older, one of us would carry her folding aluminum lawn chair with the green and white vinyl webbing. The park became my private Sherwood Forest and I pretended to be all manner of people while playing there.

Crotona Park was enormous to us as little kids. I learned years later that it covers 127.5 acres (0.5 square miles). The park is known for its variety of trees and the 3.3-acre lake is home to fish, turtles, and ducks. There are 20 tennis hard courts (clay when I was a kid), five baseball diamonds, eleven playgrounds (up from nine) and a 300-foot pool, the largest pool in the Bronx. The pool was in the next park section over as were the baseball diamonds, tennis courts, and Indian Lake. I would have to cross additional streets to get to those areas on my own and, when small, that wasn’t allowed. That meant I couldn’t go to the pool. Heck, I couldn’t swim anyway.

I had a lot of freedom as a child, but there were some simple rules:
Don’t play in the street.
Never cross more than one street.
Never go around more than one corner.
Come home when the street lights come on.

I had considered breaking the street rule, but I still wouldn’t be able to get into the pool without an adult. Any adult friend of my mother would surely ask if I had my mother’s permission. The idea of asking a stranger to escort me into a public pool was such a moon-like thought I’m not sure it ever occurred to me.

When I was a kid:
Kids spoke when spoken to.
Kids didn’t talk to strangers.
Kids didn’t interrupt adults when they were speaking.
Kids didn’t do things without permission.

The older you got, the more rules you broke.

There was a playground in Crotona Park with a park house where you could borrow balls, bats, and board games when you were no longer swinging, tagging and climbing. Across from the playground, behind a fence, with two wishing wells with weather vanes, was the Farm Garden. My brother and I knew the difference between flowers and vegetables, but we didn’t have any plants at home. We never really thought about growing stuff. We didn’t get much sunlight.

One bright, warm day I spoke to the woman who managed the Farm Garden. Well, she actually spoke to us first. My brother and I, tired of the other things we could do, had peered through the gate at the strange things growing behind the fence. Rob and I watched as the woman went to and fro carrying tools and watering cans or vegetables. Every now and then, she would glance over at us. When she began to walk towards us, we considered running off, but adventurous, we held our ground. She greeted us with, “How are you boys today?” We responded politely, as taught, with, “We’re well Ma’am.” We were brave, but not enough to ask her what she was doing. It looked liked gardening, but there weren’t any flowers.

We knew about flowers, even thought we were “city” kids. Mom, a H.S. graduate, worked in an office in the garment district and the evening she came home with an orchid corsage, I learned several things. Grandmother was a housekeeper for a baby doctor on West End Avenue and brought home just-past-fresh cut flowers sometimes. We were poor kids but wore chinos and striped tee shirts from Woolworth’s on Bathgate Avenue. We never wore denim. We didn’t own a pair of blue jeans. Field and factory folk wore dungarees. We were being raised to be something else. When she asked if we would like to come in, neither of us budged. When she asked if we’d like to know what she was doing, neither of us said a word. I guess we wore her down because finally she just smiled and said, “Come on in.”

She ushered us in and stopped when we were inside the gate almost as if, now that we were in her domain, we couldn’t get away. She said her name was Mrs. Xxyyzz, but we should call her Mrs. O. We were simply Chuck and Rob. Mrs. O, said, “Can you help me?” “You see that bush near the gate?” We half-turned and were surprised we had not noticed the remarkable plants flanking the gate. She took us towards them and, almost gleefully, asked me if I would pick one of the aspirin bottle cotton “flowers.” As I reached for the closest burst bloom, she pointed to a huge blossom well inside the plant and said, “No, that one.” I thrust my hand into the bush only to be scratched on the hand, wrist, and arm. I was genuinely wounded when I withdrew the boll.

Mrs. O reached for me and I thought to move away from this trickster but, before I could, she gently touched my shoulder and said, “Baby, now you know what it’s like to pick cotton.” “Let’s grow some vegetables!” I gave her an 8-year-old’s glare as she pulled a handkerchief from her apron and took off her hat to wipe her forehead. Her hair was white and braided in the same way as my grandmother. Except for the 360 degrees of pigment between them, they could be sisters.

I let her lead me toward the vegetables, Rob following, looking for any sign of trouble. I watched her carefully, after the incident with the cotton, as she pointed out this thing and that. In a blink, I ate vine-ripened, red tomatoes and discovered they were cousin to green peppers and purple things called eggplants. I found out peanuts could be eaten raw and potatoes, beets, and turnips grew underground with fascinating things called radishes.

I had heard of radishes. I knew they were one of the things Mom liked in her salad. Mrs. O pulled some up and washed them off under the faucet inside the wishing well. I recall asking Mrs. O, “Do kids eat radishes?” She said, “They do if they like them.” “There is only one way to find out.” Sitting in the shade, on the edge of the well with my feet dangling under cool running water, surrounded by vegetables, Rob and I enjoyed eating radishes.

Crotona Park Farm Garden Wish Well

Filed under: African-American, Arts & Culture, Bronx Parks, Community Green, , , , , , ,

Happy Birthday, Barbara!

1-Barbara

Barbara and her friends walked, talking and laughing, down Franklin Avenue towards 169th Street. I listened to every word they said, acting like I wasn’t there. My big sister and her friends were on their way to the Delite Record Shop on Boston Road to buy the Ray Charles single, “I Can’t Stop Loving You”. It had shot to the top of the R&B charts and the girls couldn’t wait to get it. Barbara was turning 18 on Saturday and wanted the hottest 45’s for the house party they were having at Sharon’s. Sharon’s mother was a night duty nurse and left for work at 10 pm. She wouldn’t be back until 10 am the next day. The party would be un-chaperoned and the teenage conspirators thought, with careful cleaning, no one would ever know it was anything more than a girl’s sleepover.

Every now and then one of Barbara’s friends would say something an 8-year-old shouldn’t hear and glance over to see if I had been listening. Of course I was, but I would turn my head to watch a car go by or kick a pebble to prove my attention was elsewhere. Barbara never looked at me. She knew I wouldn’t tell. I had learned long ago not keeping her confidence meant no attention and, sandwiched between older and younger brothers, I needed Barbara to look out for me.

Jean mentioned George and Barbara stopped, tipped her head down and looked at her the way mom would glare at us when we were bad. George was 10 years older than Barbara and she had been dating him for 2 years. Mom didn’t like it but, as a single mom, she had her hands full raising 3 younger boys, taking care of an ailing mother and dealing with a teenage girl. Barbara breathed out as though she were about to say something then turned and walked on. The girls hesitated for a moment before they fell back to chattering. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: African-American, Community Green, , , , , ,

Borrowing From Peter To Pay Paul

When I was a kid, my mother said she was, “borrowing from Peter to pay Paul” so often I thought it was her favorite expression. When I got older I realized it was really her way of describing her weekly recurring fiscal cliff. Having grown up in Harlem, as an erstwhile partner, she was now a single black woman with 4 children living in a tenement building the Morrisania section of the Bronx in the 50’s. And Grandma came to live with us. Life was . . . good most of the time.Ruth_Vasser

Family and friends called her Babe Ruth, named after her aunt and shortened from Baby Ruth, not the baseball player or the candy bar. As a kid I used to chuckle to hear her very big, younger and only brother call her Babe Ruth. She will be 92 this year and there are very few folks alive that have the right to call her Babe Ruth. She has never said we were poor as children.  I have never called her Babe Ruth. Today I think I will kiss her and call her Babe Ruth because she has never made us feel poor. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Community Green, It Takes A Village, , , , , ,

About Community Greens

It takes more than a village to raise a child in today's world. The world is more than flat or round or sun and moon. It's also the village on the other side of the river. The objects in the sky are different from that view. Community Greens, griot-like, tells a story. I invite you to share my view.

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Chuck Vasser

Blacks In Green

There are more of us people of color out there than you realize and we are coming together to express our concerns, ideas and sit at the table!

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Bronx River Sankofa
Smiling Bellies

Bronx Parks Speak Up

The 25th AnnualFebruary 23rd, 2019
The big day is here.

New York Cares Volunteers

2nd Saturday of the month thru NovemberApril 13th, 2019
Have you started your seed yet!

The CG Fit Chick

The push-up is an essential muscle-building move. They're a barometer of your overall cardiovascular health as well. A recent study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that men who can complete 40 consecutive push-ups have a 96% lower risk of coronary artery disease and heart attacks in the future compared with those who can only do 10 or fewer. Push-up capacity was more strongly associated with lower incidence of cardiovascular disease events than was aerobic capacity as estimated by a treadmill exercise test. If you're not hitting 40 but can still perform more than 10, you're doing some good. Heart disease risk decreased with every push-up completed over the baseline of 10.

Upcoming Events

  • Bronx Week May 9, 2019 – May 19, 2019
  • Chuck's Bissel Gardens Work Day May 25, 2019 at 9:30 am – 1:30 pm Bissel Gardens
  • Chuck's Bissel Gardens Work Day June 1, 2019 at 9:30 am – 1:30 pm Bissel Gardens
  • Bissel Gardeners Meeting June 1, 2019 at 10:00 am – 11:00 am Veterans Garden-Propagation
  • Chuck's Bissel Gardens Work Day June 8, 2019 at 9:30 am – 1:30 pm Bissel Gardens
  • New York Cares Volunteers at Bissel June 8, 2019 at 10:00 am – 1:00 pm Veterans Garden-Propagation
  • First Day of Summer June 21, 2019
  • Harlem Rhythm 2nd Annual Community Dance August 31, 2019 at 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm Riverbank State Park, 679 Riverside Drive, at 145th Street and the Hudson River, New York, NY, 10031 https://www.harlemonestop.com/event/27384/harlem-rhythm-2nd-annual-community-dance -- http://go.addtocalendar.com
  • Harlem Health Day & Walk September 7, 2019 St. Nicholas Park, St Nicholas Ave &, St Nicholas Terrace, New York, NY 10030, USA

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Green Tips!

Nutrition Content of Eggs

One extra large egg (whole with the yolk) contains:

  • 80 calories
  • 5.8g fat
  • 1.8g saturated fat
  • 216mg cholesterol
  • 80mg sodium
  • .4g carbohydrate
  • 0g fiber
  • 4g sugar
  • 7.3g protein
Aside from saturated fat, the yolk of the egg is actually nutrient dense, containing vitamin D, essential fatty acids, and protein. Eggs are naturally low in carbohydrate too.

Green Tips

Email

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