Source: Oasis of Resilience
Category Archives: Landscape Architecture
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson Community Garden
[In 2008 the Baisley Park Community Garden, a one-acre corner lot by the Long Island Rail tracks through Jamaica, Queens, NYC was recreated and established as the Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson Community Garden. The garden, a part of the larger New York Restoration Project (NYRP) founded by Bette Midler, was a gift from 50 Cent and his G-Unity Foundation (apparently 50 Cent grew up in Baisley Park). What’s more, landscape architect Walter Hood designed the 50 Cent Garden (If you haven’t, do read Hood’s Urban Diaries). Studded cast aside… well actually, it’s hard to just cast them aside as I probably would never have known about the “50 Cent” Garden were it not designed by Hood… but regardless, what I want to relate here is a subjective analysis and appraisal of the garden and community, a seminal community garden in a vibrant community.]
Eventually, I was off the bus at Guy R Brewer Blvd. and Foch Blvd. crossing the street and passing by Baisley Park Houses – not sure if 50 Cent grew up in one of these apartments or not – where many young guys were hanging out blasting music from car stereos. Opposite is 164th St., from where I could smell some awesome jerk barbecue. Sure enough, someone had the gate to their backyard open and a barbecue barrel set up. The sign next to the gate read “Jerk Fish and Chicken”. Unfortunately, I did not see anyone out there attending to the barbecue; otherwise I would’ve most likely got side tracked for a bit. I continued toward the garden, and with a faint whiff of jerk still in the air I could make out the train tracks and wooden cubes along the sidewalk below. I had reached my destination.
Immediately visible from the street was a formal green space defined by raised planters and an elegantly proportioned arbour. Beyond these at the far end of the garden, my eyes were quickly drawn to two towering deciduous trees under which lay vibrant blue rain catchers that also function as a covered gazebo. I made my way under the comfortably spaced arbour and along the fence to get a better look at the rain catchers. It then occurred to me how the garden, though very contemporary in appearance, has many traits of a Hortus conclusus, a walled kitchen garden made up of parterres. In sum, the 50 Cent Garden is essentially a formal kitchen garden juxtaposed by asymmetrical forms and multiple programme elements.
As I leaned against the low fence that divides and distinguishes between the exterior public space along the sidewalk and the interior garden, I noticed kids go by on scooters, cars turn on to Fochs from 165th St. and a couple of trains pass along the tracks. Each of these events outside the garden seemed harmonious with the geometric rhythm of the volumes and space within. The raised planters for example, though rectilinear and formally delineate the entrance to the garden and a path to the gazebo, are layed out somewhat sporadically suggesting various possibilities for movement and views, inside and out. The framed, sometimes enclosed paths and views further allude to the Hortus conclusus, thereby distinguishing the inner and outer dimensions of the space, the public and communal space. In between planters, particularly towards the main entrance, are decorative curvilinear plantings that clearly allude to the fore mentioned garden tradition, but also appear to follow their own rhythm, aligning with multiple use possibilities. One unique possibility that the NYRP and Baisley Community pursue is the hosting of a garden concert series.
The Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson Community Garden is a dynamic green space. Unfortunately the garden was empty of people when I was there, probably as I visited during lousy weather, on a Tuesday, and did not contact anyone prior to my visit. That said, it was clear from several behaviour traces and clear signage – a concert announcement at the entrance and 50 Cent plaque within – that the garden is well-kept, and clear from the activity within Baisley Park that it is a unique area with a community garden that is an effective, welcoming, attractive, and I hope catalyzing, community centre. Next time I’m there on a sunny day with some jerk chicken.