I thought it was a YMCA but it’s not showing up on the website as one of the Manhattan Y’s. Regardless, it is a well-frequented community center in a working class neighborhood with a distinct Latin soul at 105th and Amsterdam, in the section of Morningside Heights that gentrification has not quite yet reached.
Up the stairs, past the gym, up more stairs again past the basketball court, up the stairs again and out the door, The Wellpoint Foundation volunteers decided to LOOK UP and give this roof a makeover. They ran into legal snafus so what started out as a Wellpoint Foundation project turned into a case of grassroots volunteerism, thanks to Margo Dunlap, the organizer of this project. She, and other 20-something volunteers Oscar Lopez, Matt Romano, Vidya Santosh got materials donated and got to work. A cheerful, kid-friendly mural was painted along the walls and boxes were built to house subirrigated mini farms (the most efficient container growing method I’ve run across, see my earlier blog on Frieda Lim’s Slippery Slope Farm in Brooklyn) in an 18 x 18 foot area.
The vision is to plant and harvest edibles with the help of the local kids. When there is a harvest, they will set up a farmers market at street level and sell the excess produce, teaching inner city youth the entire cycle of planting, growing, harvesting and selling produce, while providing the freshest produce possible to their neighborhood. Healthy food equals healthier kids which equals a healthier community. This seemingly small roof project will undoubtedly have long-reaching, positive effects.
It’s July and it’s time to cool off and get wet. I’m planning on heading up to Riverbank State Park and doing some laps in one of their roof pools. The surprise is what lies under these rooftop pools. I’ll let you know all about it next week.