trees not trash

photos by Maximus Comissar

neighborhood: East Williamsburg / Bushwick | space type: community space; guerilla garden | active since: 2004 | link: website, facebook

Who says a space has to be enclosed by four walls, or even have a roof? Trees Not Trash is a guerilla gardening group run by Kate and Cory, a wife and husband team, who are two of the nicest, most dedicated people I’ve ever met. Over the past seven years they’ve appropriated four abandoned outdoor spaces, working to turn plots of land that were hideously overgrown or dense with years of garbage into lovely community gardens and urban oases.

They’ve also requested and received over two thousand trees from the NYC Parks Department, which have been planted throughout Bushwick, and they’ve further beautified neighborhood blocks with dozens of planters that they made from found tires and wood. Kate and Cory involve volunteers throughout the community, including hipsters, of course, but also many neighborhood children, to whom they teach the fundamentals of gardening, often sending the kids home with fresh herbs and vegetables.

brooklyn spaces: Give me a run-down of the spaces.
Kate: There’s four: the little garden by the Morgan Ave L train stop, the big community garden on Bogart, the Jefferson Street garden, and the new one at the Bushwick Library.

brooklyn spaces: What inspired you to start this project?
Kate: We’d been working with the city to get trees put in for awhile, and we’d been thinking about the abandoned lot on McKibben Street. Then someone contacted me and said, “Hey, I rescued these four evergreen shrubs. Can you help me plant them?” I was like, “Yes! We need to do this garden now.” So we climbed over the fence and just started pulling weeds and digging up the soil. It was dirty, dirty, nasty work. The weeds there were taller than most people. We went in there with machetes and did the jungle thing.

brooklyn spaces: Were you worried about getting in trouble?
Kate: I made the assumption that everybody was going to be in support of what I was doing. I figured it would be very difficult to tell somebody not to clean up garbage and plant trees and flowers. I just wanted to improve the neighborhood I was living in. I think that’s one of the things guerilla gardening is all about.

brooklyn spaces: Was it hard to get people in the neighborhood involved?
Kate: We had this incredible group of people who would dedicate their entire Sunday to getting really disgusting and dirty. Even on days when we were going to be touching twenty-year-old garbage, everybody was like, “Yeah, I want to do that!” This is where you live, you know? It was like-minded people coming together and doing something,

brooklyn spaces: How about local kids?
Kate: The Jefferson Street garden became their hangout. All of the kids adopted a tree, and they totally made that garden their own. It’s their stomping ground. Every Sunday at 1:00, there’s kids banging on our door, wanting to plant and stuff, saying, “When are we gardening today?” We grow food there, which was huge for them, because none of them had ever grown food before.

brooklyn spaces: What kind of events do you have in the spaces?
Kate: At the library garden we’re working on doing a reading series, where it’s really beautiful and shady. We’ve really made a little oasis there, at that terrible intersection. Bushwick and Seigel is so oppressive. It’s hot, tons of traffic, no respite from anything, and with projects all around. Which is actually cool, because as we’re working, people from the projects can see what we’re doing, that this revolting little space that was strewn with garbage and filled with rats is now turning into this oasis, and they can go and sit in it. At the community garden, we’ve had garden parties where dressing up is required, and we play badminton and things. We make big pitchers of Pimm’s cocktails, using stuff from the garden, like cucumbers and lavender. We actually got married in that garden.

brooklyn spaces: Did you set out to be a guerilla gardener?
Kate: No, I didn’t really have any idea of it being guerilla gardening when I started. It was selfish as well as community-minded. I really wanted trees, and I wanted other people to want trees. But I never really had a plan, like, “I’m going to wear a bandanna and do this in the dead of night.” It just became that way.


Like this? Read about other community spaces: Bushwick City Farms#OccupyWallStreet art showTrinity ProjectTime’s Up, Brooklyn Free Store, Body Actualized Center, No-Space

Reader interactions

24 Replies to “trees not trash”

  1. […] creative use of space in our fine borough and interviewing the masterminds behind each project. The latest entry on the community garden and guerrilla gardening group Trees Not Trash will be of particular […]

  2. Oh my goodness! an amazing article dude. Thank you However I am experiencing issue with ur rss . Do not know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone getting identical rss problem? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx

  3. Wow, Damon, thanks so much! The RSS was indeed presenting problems, which is why I removed it. You could subscribe for email updates, or like the site on Facebook if you want notification of new posts. Thanks again for your support!

  4. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your site. It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to create your theme? Fantastic work!

  5. Hong Eversman 22 Apr ’11 at 5:27 pm

    I don’t normally comment on blogs.. But nice post! I just bookmarked your site

  6. […] this? Read about other community spaces: Brooklyn Free Store, Trees Not Trash, Time’s […]

  7. […] Brooklyn these days, farming is one that’s gaining ground. Brooklynites are farming in gardens (Trees Not Trash, Bushwick City Farm), on rooftops (Eagle Street, Roberta’s), even in trucks! They’re even […]

  8. […] this? Read about more community spaces: Time’s Up, Trees Not Trash, Books Through Bars, Boswyck […]

  9. […] Brooklyn these days, farming is one that’s gaining ground. Brooklynites are farming in gardens (Trees Not Trash, Bushwick City Farm), on rooftops (Eagle Street, Roberta’s), even in trucks! They’re even […]

  10. […] are makers. We make everything, no matter how weird or difficult. We make gardens in abandoned lots, screen-printed skateboards, pools in dumpsters, art from old books, games out of shopping carts. […]

  11. […] this? Read about more nonprofits: Books Through Bars, Trees Not Trash, Time’s Up, Brooklyn Free […]

  12. […] this? Read about more community groups: Trees Not Trash, Books Through Bars, Brooklyn Free Store, Time’s Up, Boswyck Farms, Film Biz […]

  13. By the way your piece was recommended by Themelis Cuiper’s SocialGarden Biz meet-ups of smm & social media advertising, so you must be doing a superb job! :-)

    1. Hey Mackenzie! Thanks for letting me know, but I’ve never heard of Themelis Cuiper. Can you give me any more info on who he is and how Bk Spaces was involved?

  14. I have been examinating out some of your stories and i can state pretty nice stuff. I will surely bookmark your blog.

  15. […] Like this? Read about more activism (that’s actually in Brooklyn): Time’s Up, The Brooklyn Free Store, Books Through Bars, Trees Not Trash […]

  16. […] this? Read more about community spaces: Trinity Project, Trees Not Trash, Brooklyn Free Store, Boswyck Farms, Books Through Bars, Film Biz […]

  17. […] City Farms is really one of the most beautiful projects I’ve had the pleasure of profiling. Like Trees Not Trash, they’ve appropriated two abandoned lots (so far), and they’ve filled them with […]

  18. […] this? Read about more community spaces: Trees Not Trash, Time’s Up, Trinity Project, Bushwick City […]

  19. […] spaces: The Illuminator, OWS art show, Bushwick City Farm, Books Through Bars, Time’s Up, Trees Not Trash, Brooklyn Free […]

  20. If you are among the common people who can simply regard the louis vuitton handbags SC bag Sofia
    Coppola they would keep it forever. Louis Vuitton Handbags is not only fashionable
    but also practical enough for daily using yet not too large.
    The quality handbags of louis vuitton handbags. You really have to go on business for several
    days now and then. Unless you want a fake. There are also several very
    lovely lace dresses, including the V-necked cocktail dress with
    elbow-length butterfly sleeves.

    1. didn’t i see an article of you in Mother Earth News? How is it going by the way? Are your bueckts doubled? Top with soil bottom with water or are my eyes playing tircks on me? anyway glad to see your sweet little garden! And the variety is nice to see also! This gives me renewed hope! ^_^

  21. michael kors outlet’s footwear design in the world-famous wonderful. On Wednesday she horrified the world admitting that she defaces the shoes by painting them. To give it a casual look, we’re
    just adding a little more simple — maybe a translucent version ofKate Middleton’s favorite pump? The artistic architecture of these shoes are narrow so it is even harder for those with wide feet. He never went to fashion or design school and instead got his training working for, among others, Charles Jourdan, one of a kind.

  22. […] this? Read more about community spaces: No-Space, Trees Not Trash, Bushwick City Farms, Brooklyn Free Store, The Illuminator, Occupy Wall Street art show, Books […]

Comments are closed.