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Neighbors transform a vacant lot into gardens & community space

"There's really magic happening here"
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Posted at 5:48 PM, Jul 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-22 17:58:46-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Vacant lots scattered throughout parts of Buffalo can be an eyesore in neighborhoods. But in one west side community, residents decided to transform a lot into a community space for gardens and gatherings.

“It’s amazing — you know there's really magic happening here and I think that it shows the power of community when you come together — you don’t even have to have a shared language,” declared Elizabeth Meg Williams, president of Upper 14Th Street Block Club & founder and executive director, Kids Neighborhood Initiative.

Elizabeth Meg Williams, president of Upper 14Th Street Block Club & founder and executive director, Kids Neighborhood Initiative.

It's simplicity at its best. homegrown vegetables and flowers cultivated by a diverse group of west side neighbors who live on a section of 14Th Street.

Williams led the effort with her neighbors to transform this vacant lot into an improved community space.

Over the winter she took suggestions written on cards from residents on what to do with the lot.

Residents filled out cards with suggestions.

Neighborhood children submitted drawings with requests for a pool, but in the end, growing space was the biggest demand.

“Space to grow food — we have immigrants and refugees primarily on the block so that self-sufficiency and being able to grow food and also flowers that they can't find here. One of the neighbors told me about a flower he is growing there that you know is from Burma and he can't find it here, so it is so powerful for him to grow that,” Williams explained.

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Two children enjoying the garden.

14th Street is a mix of new and old generations of immigrants and refugees speaking seven different languages.

“There's very little shared language, so there's a lot of pantomiming happening and a lot of confusion sometimes, but you know they make it work as you can see it is just incredible the amount of progress,” described Williams.

“It is so beautiful for me to see these people gathering — all different cultures — all different languages coming together,” reflected Catherine Carr Lincoln, board member, Gardens Buffalo Niagara.

Catherine Carr Lincoln, board member, Gardens Buffalo Niagara.

Carr Lincoln says Gardens Buffalo Niagara provided a $1,000 grant to help residents create these gardens.

“Because it's really the heart of Marvin Lunenfeld, and the founders of Gardens Walk Buffalo and the whole organization — as it is now it's really what we envision,” Carr Lincoln noted.

Lot before it was transformed.

Push Buffalo owns the lot. The organization took over the lot after a home was destroyed in a fire.

“This is exactly why push was started — this is exactly why it was started. We wanted to bring people together. They're doing things for themselves where they are feeding their families. They're teaching the next generation how to actually grow food,” replied Rahwa Gahirmatzion, executive director, Push Buffalo.

Rahwa Gahirmatzion, executive director, Push Buffalo.

Work will continue here on this vacant lot to eventually transform the backspace into a safe play space for children.

“This is a community that's already tight-knit and a place like this that was just empty and doing nothing — is now really bringing the community together in different ways,” reflected Gahirmatzion.

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Vacant lot transformed into garden and community space.

“It’s so vibrant now. It’s become a community gathering space. It’s a safe place for the kids to play. It’s a place for people to get resources and then just come together,” Williams responded.

Community building at its best.