In the fall of 1999, while looking to purchase a condo in Jersey City Heights, I discovered Fisk-Riverview Park. The park is remarkable for its view of the Hudson and the Manhattan skyline. At its southern end, I noticed what I thought was a lovely private garden.
On closer inspection, I found a poster indicating it was a Community Garden. I immediately made inquiries in the neighborhood as to who I might contact to join.
I finally caught up with Allison Fontana. She signed me up, introduced me to other members and told me the garden’s history. Originally an abandoned overgrown lot, it changed when local community leaders Greg Bricky and Kathy Packard applied to the city for a grant to create a fenced community garden.
In 1995, Anne-Marie Uebbing, Director of the New Jersey Department of Housing, granted the lot to the community on permanent charter, after which time it has become an integral part of the park.
Along with local resident Claire Archer, Allison joined the two founders and worked with both the community garden and the park, under the Public Works Department.Vegetables for the neighbors
In the spring of 2000, I planted my first vegetables and have continued to plant each year since then, often having a surfeit of produce that I donate to family and neighbors.
In 2004, when Allison moved to Pennsylvania, she asked if I would take over the running of the garden, and I agreed, enlisting the help of two other long-time members, Janet Harris and Robin McAllister.
Since then, with everyone volunteering for different tasks, the garden has flourished and become a focal point of the park. This last summer was one of the best so far and caused a passer-by to say: “Wow, this is the most beautiful place in Jersey City!”
This summer also saw the visit of Council President Mariano Vega and his subsequent help in signing the garden onto the ROSI Green Acres program.
The original mission of the community garden was to give plots to members of the local community without backyards, and to give children who otherwise have no access to a garden the experience of growing plants and flowers. Adults’ and children’s gardens
There are 30 plots in the adults’ garden and four plots in the children’s garden, for families or local pre-schools.
Adult plots vary in size: beginners start in smaller ones; experienced gardeners take larger ones. Apart from maintaining their individual plot, members are required to sign up for jobs in the common parts, i.e., grass mowing, pruning, watering and weeding, creating walkways and fencing, organizing garbage and composting. The garden rules follow those for all community gardens and are given to each member at sign-up. Get involved
The community garden opens with a clean-up day around the first week of April, depending on the weather, at which old and new members alike sign up for a plot and a key (yearly membership is $10) and help organize the garden.
The season ends with another clean-up day (which often includes a BBQ and mulled wine!) at the end of October, also depending on the weather. Though many of the plots remain with the same members each year, there are always openings as members’ work schedules change or they move away from the area.
To apply for a plot this coming season, or to contribute items, i.e. plants or tools, or simply to come and visit, call: 201-610-9665, e-mail: email@example.com. Also, check the garden out at: www.savethepalisades.org/pages/garden/html