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Bette Midler unveils beauty

Entertainer Bette Midler and Target opened an elegant community garden off Woodycrest Avenue in Highbridge on Tuesday, October 6.

The Target Bronx Community Garden, built and owned by the New York Restoration Project (NYRP), boasts raised vegetable beds and an outdoor kitchen, and is steps from the house where eight children died in a fire two years ago.

Highbridge residents who attended the celebration described it as a sliver of beauty in a neighborhood desperate for change.

“This is your garden,” NYRP founder Midler told residents munching on hamburgers. “Fill it with flowers.”

Designed by superstar gardener Sean Conway, the Target Bronx Community Garden sits between Woodycrest and Anderson avenues. On Woodycrest Avenue, a gravel path flanked by ornamental trees and soft lamps leads into the garden. On Anderson Avenue, the hillside of the garden faces P.S. 73.

Prior to the NYRP restoration, there were two gardens between Woodycrest and Anderson avenues: the Woodycrest Community Garden and the Anderson Community Garden. The former was deserted, residents said. P.S. 73 students worked at the latter.

The new garden features thousands of square feet of raised vegetable beds, a grass lawn for picnics, a shaded deck and a compost toilet for garden volunteers. The outdoor kitchen sports four burners and a grill, NYRP garden guru Jared Vazalez said.

Planted in the raised beds are beets, peppers, peas, cabbage, lettuce, thyme, basil, lavender, collard greens and tomatoes. NYRP redirected rain runoff from an apartment building roof to water the garden and constructed a chicken coop with a green roof of its own. NYRP will distribute garden plots to Highbridge residents soon, and will maintain the garden at no cost to the neighborhood or the city.

Theodore Massiah of Parkchester, 49, was raised in Highbridge. The new garden is “wonderful,” Massiah said. The gardens used to be ugly and seedy; Massiah referred to the Target Bronx Community Garden as a “transformation” and a “throwback” to the 1960s, when Highbridge was more pleasant and safe.

“[The gardens were] abandoned,” Woodycrest Avenue resident Jaywana Bradley, 31, said. “This is good for the neighborhood.”

Ismael Ona of Anderson Avenue, 18, praised the garden design.

Gertalyn Gibbs lives in an apartment building beside the garden and watched the restoration from start to finish. She plans to claim a garden plot. Gibbs thanked Target for its investment but denounced the new shopping mall on River Avenue where Target opened in July.

NYRP will offer cooking demonstrations, green thumb workshops and summer concerts at the new garden. On Saturday, October 10, it hosted a Harvest Festival and the band Yerba Buena. Taqwa Community Farm on W. 164th Street is another popular oasis in Highbridge.

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