A tree may grow in Brooklyn, but a community garden does not grow in the Second Ward of Morristown. At least not yet.
An introduction Tuesday night by Town Council that would eventually lead to the leasing of land on Martin Luther King Avenue to Grow it Green Morristown for their second community garden in town was tabled when several Second Ward residents–including councilwoman Raline Smith-Reid–expressed their concerns with the idea.
A community forum to discuss the issue, to be scheduled by Smith-Reid, was not set by the end of Tuesday's meeting.
James Kersey, a Second Ward resident and former Planning Board member, presented a petition of about 100 signatures he said came from people that are in opposition to the community garden, which has been talked about for over a year.
"It will create an eyesore in an area which already has its challenges for eyesores," said the lifelong Morristown resident. "We feel there are other areas that would be more desirable locations."
Smith-Reid, also a lifelong resident of Morristown who represents the Second Ward, when members of Grow it Green Morristown, which would maintain the garden, brought plans for the project before the council. At the time, Smith-Reid presented Myra Bowie-McCready, one of the Grow it Green founding members, with a litany of questions including parking, how that plot was chosen, whether other plots had been considered and whether or not area neighbors would get first crack at them.
McCready, a Third Ward resident, noted then that the –Grow it Green's other public garden in Morristown–made a point to first offer plots to senior citizens at the senior complex next door. She told the council a similar offer would be extended to area residents for the MLK plot, and then would open any remaining plots to their Early Street Garden waiting list of nearly 50 people.
On Tuesday, McCready added that five of the 20 larger plots planned for the space, and three of the eight smaller plots, would be set aside specifically for the neighborhood and surrounding churches, regardless of whether or not they were on the waiting list.
It did not seem to sway detractors. "There's nothing in the world better than fresh vegetables," said Second Ward resident Helen Arnold. "What we need to do is work together and not load the Second Ward with anything the rest of the town does not want. Please don't do this to the minorities. There has got to be some places other than the Second Ward. Don't put a vegetable garden on a main drag."
Dorothy Broome, another longtime Second Ward resident, said there had been a lack of information presented to Second Ward residents about the project. "Issues are solved by the people who live there," she said. "Communication is the best thing in the world, rather than just shoving things down there."
McCready addressed what she called "a wave of misinformation" about the project, noting she had spoken with Broome about it previously. "We have done major research," she told the council, noting the piece of land does not flood, unlike some other parts of the area, which were .
McCready also addressed another concern presented about a $45 fee for to maintain a plot at the garden, which she said is on a sliding scale. Those who cannot pay don't pay or pay in installments, she said.
"And, no one is being excluded," McCready said. "I would think everyone would want something like this showcasing their neighborhood."
Kersey said that is not the case when the Early Street Community Garden is out of season in November, saying there are weeds and overgrowth in the space. "It's just adding to what already is an ugly area of Morristown," he said.
After the meeting, when asked if he believed Grow it Green representative claims that the property would be kept up year-round, Kersey said no.
"They said the same thing about Early Street," he said. "Actually, it (the land on Martin Luther King Avenue) looks nice the way it is. It's better than the ice house that was there for years."
That ice house, or furniture store, was an abandoned property that sat at the location for years before finally being torn down less than a decade ago, as county funding helped preserve the plot as open space. Smith-Reid referred to the whole thing in January as a "somewhat of a touchy subject for me" as she mentioned her participation in the preservation.
Kersey said neighbors in the Second Ward were "feeling slighted. Someone outside the community wants to do something after [others] got it cleaned up," he said. "Where were they when the ice house was there?"
Ultimately, Smith-Reid said, she is not against a community garden in the Second Ward, just not there.
"No one is fighting them," she said. "I will help them find another location."