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Teens get into action at new garden - Students from St. Nick’s program continue work on S. 4th Street community jewel

A new community garden opened last week on South 4th and Hewes streets. Very quickly, it was put to good use.

With school out last Tuesday and Wednesday for the Jewish holidays, around 30 students from St. Nicholas Neighborhood Preservation Corporation’s Teen A.C.T.I.O.N program – a citywide empowerment and civic action program run by St. Nick’s in Williamsburg – availed themselves of the new community jewel.

Many of these students worked last summer to turn the garden from a rubble-strewn eyesore into a point of community pride.

On Tuesday, the students picked up where they left off. They cleaned the back-interior portion of the garden, which is one day envisioned to become a versatile community space, and planted flowers near the front of the garden.

Wednesday was dedicated to relaxing, as the students listened to music, caught up on schoolwork, played dominos, and ate pizza.

“This is incredible,” said Keli Cabunoc, director of the St. Nick’s arm of the Teen A.C.T.I.O.N program, which includes around 100 students.

“To have this here allows kids to hang out in their community on their terms. Where else would they be right now? It’s a big deal. It’s really important to have this space here.”

Ellis Collado, a 17-year-old student at Progress High School who interned in Councilmember Diana Reyna’s office and helped build the garden, remembered what the space looked like when she and others began work on it in June.

“When we came here it was just rocks and garbage. We made it what it is today. Everything we did – from leveling the ground and laying down the soil – it was all new to me. We didn’t think it would come this far,” she said.

The garden is located on a corner that was once dominated by the drug trade. At the garden’s opening two week’s ago, Reyna said the adjacent building, 383 Hewes Street, was known as “Drug City” in the 1980s and early 90s.

“I grew up around here, so I know what it was like before,” said Kayla Cruz, an 18-year-old student at Grand Street Campus. “It’s not like that now.”

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