Rapper 50 Cent’s community garden offers a green alternative to juvenile detention
by Nicole Jewell, 09/22/16
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Bette Midler might not seem like they have much in common, but the two performers have quite the “budding” friendship. Hoping to give back to the Jamaica, Queens neighborhood where he grew up, the famous rapper has joined forces with Midler’s New York Restoration Project (NYRP) to breathe new life into what’s now known as the 50 Cent Garden.
Under the guidance of landscape architect and designer Walter Hood, the urban garden in Jamaica is now complete with a children’s learning garden, multiple vegetable beds, and a patio area. A donation from 50 Cent funded the green space’s rainwater harvesting system (composed of 10-foot-tall funnels) and overhauled planting areas.
Related: NYC Public Schools Receive Funding For Student Gardens
In addition to bringing some lovely green space to the community, the organization also works with the Queens Youth Justice Center, an alternative-to-detention program. The kids in the program volunteer in the 10,983-square-foot garden, working under the supervision of elderly neighborhood residents who oversee the rotating crops of runner beans, kale, tomatoes, and pumpkins.
Deborah Marton, the executive director of NYRP, says that garden programs really bring communities together. “There are not many activities in our culture where young people, old people, people of different races will all agree and find it easy to work together,” she says. “There’s a transfer of knowledge here, about gardening specifically, but also a transfer of wisdom and values: of what’s important in life in general.”
Community gardens are invaluable to New York neighborhoods, but especially in areas like the Jamaica section of Queens, where, according to NYRP, there is less than five percent of the recommended amount of open space for tens of thousands of young residents.