City Limits’ Archives

Flashback Friday is a weekly series highlighting a story from the vast archives of City Limits’ reporting as we celebrate our 45th anniversary this year.

If you value City Limits’ work, help us continue to cover New York City for decades more to come by donating here, or by purchasing a ticket to our anniversary celebration Nov. 18.

“The people of the South Bronx, armed with shovels and shrubs, are well on their way to converting a patchwork of barren lots into their own urban version of the National Park System.”

So begins this cover story by writer Penny Wolfson, published in the June/July 1979 issue of City Limits, which outlines the efforts of Bronx residents and community groups to turn 15 of the borough’s then-vacant lots into flourishing green spaces. The initiative was one facet of a larger revitalization plan for the South Bronx at the time following President Jimmy Carter’s famous visit to the borough two years before, when he toured abandoned and burned-out buildings, turning The Bronx into a national emblem of urban dysfunction.

Wolfson’s story centers on a “75-foot by 100-foot plot on Barretto Street, rescued by the neighborhood from an asphalt future…It has a vegetable garden planted by schoolchildren, a sculpture made from telephone poles, a dogwood tree and a park bench.”

The lot, the story explains, was “originally a flourishing garden, owned and planted by an Italian family on the block” until the Singer Oil Co. bought the property and uprooted the plantings, with the goal of building a parking lot instead.

“But the people on Barretto Street opposed it,” Wolfson writes. “The owner struggled for a few years, trying to get a permit to build the parking lot, but with help from the community board, Barretto Street residents finally beat him, and convinced him to let them plant a garden there.”

“The park will include a stage and tent for entertainment, a barbeque pit and picnic tables, and a fountain, all made from found objects, such as telephone poles, 50-gallon drums, and tractor tires. Juniper and dogwood trees will surround the park. The garden will supply a crop of pumpkins, corn, carrots, peppers and collard greens for the people on Barretto Street.”

Today, Barretto Street in Hunts Point is home to the popular Barretto Point Park, which opened on the neighborhood’s waterfront in 2006 and is perhaps best known as home to the Floating Pool Lady, a seven-lane swimming pool on a barge which docks at the park each summer.

Read the article in full in City Limits’ online archives, or browse the entire summer 1979 issue below.

[scribd id=76747334 key=key-uknqv881kq2syj8k3p3 mode=scroll]