Pride on the West Side in Community Gardens


Wednesday was the Fourth of July. After sleeping for most of the day, I decided to ride my bike through the hood to see what was good. After all, it was the Fourth, and somebody should be barbequing, right?

The Fourth on the West Side of Buffalo is crazy. Every block held a mini- Independence Day fireworks session. The smell of gunpowder and smoke filled the air and the only thing you could hear was the sound of fireworks. As I rode around, the one thing that jumped out at me was the sight of a family in one of PUSH’s community gardens.

The family looked so proud of their growing garden. And while I couldn’t tell what they were growing (the plants were really tall though), their smiles were all I needed to see, to know that they were truly happy.

This “love scene” was observed at the new PUSH Buffalo Community Garden located on 14th Street near Rhode Island. This area of land began as an empty field before being developed into five houses. Over the years, the houses disintegrated and became unoccupied, eventually becoming vacant lots.

The idea of transforming a vacant urban lot into a community garden is not new, nor is PUSH Buffalo the first group to do this. Other groups, like the Massachusetts Avenue Project, Grassroots Gardens, and several private citizens have been turning vacant lots into gardens for many years.

In fact, several cities outside of the Buffalo area have been transforming vacant spaces into gardens – gardens that have become big hits in their communities. In places like Detroit, Chicago, Cincinnati, Newark, and New York City, people have figured out that community gardens are important pieces of their community’s sustainability and revitalization.

PUSH Buffalo has strongly advocated sustainable living since the beginning. Sustainability as it relates to our society is simply the cleanest (less taxing on the human body and environment), most economical (makes good financial sense for society as a whole), most efficient (makes the most logical use of environmental, financial, and human resources), and most humane means of building a strong community.

The creation of a community garden (especially in an urban area) is a no-brainer. Many neighborhoods in urban cities like Buffalo suffer from vacant land and poor housing conditions. In these same areas, residents have limited access to fresh food options. Activate the sustainability drive, and all of a sudden several vacant areas become beautiful community assets where residents can grow food that their friends and families can enjoy.

I remember when I first started at PUSH Buffalo, I thought everyone was a little crazy. I wondered what the hell sustainability was and why they kept talking about it? The sight of that family in the community garden makes it very clear for me now, and with the creation of each new garden the picture becomes clearer and clearer.

Staying true to our mission of helping to show what sustainability is, we have a couple gardens that have blossomed up in the neighborhood that include: Hampshire Street near 15th Street, 14th Street near Rhode Island, Winter Street, and 15th Street and W. Utica Street. There are some other gardens in the works. If you’re not too busy this summer, stop by and take a look at one or all of them.

Who knows – you might fall in love with the neighborhood all over again.