About two dozen students from the Williamsburg High School of Architecture and Design (WHSAD), the Greenpoint Youth Court and the Frances Perkins Academy gathered in front of the North Brooklyn Development Corporation Offices on Huron Street to install garden boxes Thursday evening – part of a neighborhood beautification project the students have been working on since January this year.
Operation Teach Learn Grown, largely funded through a Walentas Family Foundation Neighborhood School Grant, allowed students a chance to survey the neighborhood, identify spots that needed more greenery, and then work on the creation of the garden boxes.
Students chose 25 sites throughout the neighborhood, and proceeded to design the wooden frames of the boxes based on different landmarks in Greenpoint. Students designed the boxes on AutoCAD and then used lasers to create the boxes using wood.
“It was a new experience creating something entirely from the start,” said Randy Morfe, 18, a senior at WHSAD, and one of the members of the design team. “It’s great that we got to work with our hands.”
On Thursday, students placed the wooden frames at the Huron Street location and planted seeds and flowers in the garden box. The Huron Street boxes are emblazoned and carved with designs of the Greenpoint Monitor, in commemoration of the locally built Civil War Naval ship. The students will take on the responsibility for the maintenance of the boxes once they’re all in place.
“Aside from doing something with our hands, we actually did something selflessly for the community for nothing in return, and it feels really good to be able to do something like this,” said Anthony Villegas, 16, a student at the Youth Court.
The goal behind the project was to allow students get a hands-on approach on working towards the betterment of their community. The idea behind the gardening and the beautification was that the project would act as means to counter the negative effects of the pollution caused by Newtown Creek, and would support the neighborhood’s shift from an industrial zone to a more residential one.
“The greatest value of this project is that the kids are the front and center of taking charge in the neighborhood,” said Dana Rachlin, program coordinator at the Greenpoint Youth Court. “This is a highly visible form of community service, it beautifies the neighborhood and everyone is happy in the bargain.”
The project also received support from the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce, and local electeds including City Councilmember Steve Levin and Assemblyman Joe Lentol, who attended the inauguration ceremony for the garden boxes on Huron Street.
“This will really be great for our community,” said Lentol to the students present. “I also hope this will serve as a lesson to the community to show them what young people are really capable of.”
Students will continue working on the project through the summer and until October when the last of the garden boxes will be installed.