Justice Community beautifies new Rivers Run garden

Justice Community beautifies new Rivers Run garden|Justice Community beautifies new Rivers Run garden|Justice Community beautifies new Rivers Run garden
Photo courtesy of Anat Gerstein, Inc.|Photo courtesy of Anat Gerstein, Inc.|Photo courtesy of Ike Love

A non-profit organization is helping to develop a new landscape in Co-op City.

On Friday, June 19, participants of the Osborne Association’s Justice Community program worked on the new Rivers Run Community Garden, Co-op City’s first ever riverfront green space.

The community-based workshop brought court-involved individuals in contact with a community project that broke ground in late October.

During the assignment, Justice Community participants dug in and planted vegetables, spread wood chips throughout the flowerbeds, built benches and put down ground cover.

This was Justice Community program’s second effort at enhancing this garden. They had prepared the flower beds and leveled new areas for planting on Friday, April 17.

“Green spaces in the Bronx are very important,” said Faatimah Croston, internship specialist for the Justice Community program. “This new garden, in particular, has experienced so many changes in such a short period of time and it’s great that the participants of our program were able to be involved in continuing this exciting, positive process.”

“It felt good to go out into the community and help beautify the garden,” said Angela Ortiz, a former Justice Community participant who graduated from the program on Friday, June 26. “It is because of this program and workshops like these that I have a great education, work and community service experience to put on my resume as well as opportunities for the future.”

Ortiz worked with others in the Justice Community program to work on Rivers Run Community Garden.
Photo courtesy of Anat Gerstein, Inc.

“I was happy to just give back to the community in general,” said Carlos Davila, another participant who volunteered at the garden. “This garden didn’t even break ground until a year ago and it has already undergone so much progress.”

“It’s a great thing to see so many volunteers getting involved and I hope to work on this project again as well as any other community benefit.”

The Justice Community program offers career exploration opportunities and job training for young adults, 18 to 24 years old, with previous criminal justice involvement – most of whom also have limited work experience and therefore struggle to find and hold on to jobs.

The program includes environmental literacy training, job readiness workshops and several community benefit projects like this one to help participants establish relationships with local organizations and businesses that can assist them in both attaining and keeping employment as well as advancing their careers.

The Osborne Association has a 80-year history of leadership in working with currently and formerly incarcerated men, women and adolescents as well as families affected by the incarceration of a loved one, making it the oldest and most experienced organization in New York State providing direct services to individuals involved with the criminal justice system.

“Projects such as these are really critical in reestablishing young people’s ties to their neighborhoods, giving them an opportunity to reboot and to find their path towards a more positive future,” said John Valverde, associate executive director for program operation of the Osborne Association. “Our Justice Community participants gain job skills while they are doing something positive for the community – and community members get to see how young people can play a role in improving the neighborhood.”

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 742–3384. E-mail him at sgoodstein@cnglocal.com.
Justice Community program participants built benches, planted flowerbeds and more at Rivers Run Community Garden.
Photo courtesy of Ike Love