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6. The New York Botanical Garden

Press Contact: Nick Leshi, 718-817-8658

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Karen Washington, Community Member; Gregory Long, President & CEO; and Mrs. Obama.
Pictured: Karen Washington, Community Member; Gregory Long, President & CEO; and Mrs. Obama. Click image to access high-resolution version.

Thousands of plants, herbs, fruits, vegetables, and trees thrive on 250 acres of preserved green space carefully cultivated and maintained by the New York Botanical Garden. An advocate for the plant kingdom, the Garden uses its expertise and facilities to present programs, events, exhibitions, and classes that emphasize the importance of environmental conservation, healthy living, and science education, as well as strengthen the community.

Twenty-two years ago, the Bronx was overrun with abandoned lots and buildings, and neighborhoods were losing their sense of community. To help transform the community, the Garden piloted Bronx Green-Up, a horticulture outreach program that works with community groups to beautify, stabilize, and revitalize urban neighborhoods by planting public gardens in abandoned spaces.

These gardens are maintained by local residents and reflect the diverse backgrounds of their gardeners, bearing fruits, vegetables, and herbs popular among the Bronx’s Hispanic, African-American, White, and Asian communities. Since its inception, Bronx Green-Up has created more than 300 community and school gardens and urban farms throughout the borough.

The New York Botanical Garden welcomes more than 750,000 visitors each year. Approximately one-third of them reside in the Bronx. The Garden views its mission, in part, as using plants to battle hunger, obesity, and declining science learning trends with programs tailored specifically to meet real community needs.

U.S. Representative Joseph Crowley (NY-07) "I would like to congratulate the New York Botanical Garden on its receipt of the 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. This award is a meaningful affirmation of the Garden’s long-standing commitment and service to the Bronx community. Through its many creative initiatives, the Garden demonstrates an extraordinary level of public service as well as a keen understanding of the community’s pressing needs. In addition, the Garden has played an active role in improving the diverse and vibrant neighborhoods that surround its landmark facility. The Bronx is proud to be home to this world-class institution."

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) "I offer my congratulations to The New York Botanical Garden on receiving the 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. It's a landmark in the community, and has always been ahead of the curve through its cutting-edge research. As a proud, long-time supporter of the Botanical Garden, I'm not at all surprised that the Institute of Museum and Library Services is taking notice."

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) "I congratulate The New York Botanical Garden on this well-deserved recognition. It is a shining example of the Garden’s commitment to providing local children with a safe environment to learn during non-school hours. I am proud to support programs dedicated to improving science education and providing young people with safe opportunities to grow and prosper."

U.S. Representative José E. Serrano (NY-16) "It is a great honor for our community that the Bronx’s New York Botanical Garden has been awarded a 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The NYBG is a treasured resource in the Bronx, and the acknowledgment of their exemplary service is long overdue. Their mission has been more broadly defined over the years from conservation and horticulture to a wide variety of programs that enrich and enliven our community. We are grateful for their service and applaud them in this moment of well-deserved recognition."

Community Member Karen Washington
Community activist turns empty lots into gardens

Since 1985, Karen Washington has been a community activist striving to make the Bronx a better place to live. Through Bronx Green-Up, the community outreach program of The New York Botanical Garden, Karen has worked to turn empty lots into community gardens. As an advocate, she has spoken out for garden protection and preservation.

Karen has lived in New York City all her life, and has been a resident of the Bronx for over 23 years. As a member of La Familia Verde Garden Coalition, she launched City Farms Market, bringing garden fresh vegetables to her neighbors. Karen is on the board of Just Food, an all-volunteer effort promoting a holistic approach to food, hunger, and agriculture issues. She leads workshops on food growing and food justice for community gardeners all over the city.

Karen is also president of the New York City Community Garden Coalition, a group that was founded to preserve community gardens. She joined The New York Botanical Garden Board of Trustees in September 2009. According to Karen, "To grow your own food gives you power and dignity. You know exactly what you're eating because you grew it. It's good, it's nourishing and you did this for yourself, your family and your community."