Saturday, August 25, 2012

Teresa Lugo Bright Street Community Garden

Teresa Lugo has lived on Bright Street a long time. She has been a neighborhood activist and community organizer in Jersey City for decades. She led the successful fight that prevented developers from turning the neighborhood directly around the PATHMARK into high-priced condominiums, which would have displaced the working class people who have called this neck of the downtown woods home for more than half a century.

Now a garden is part of her namesake.The Teresa Lugo Bright Street Community Garden was dedicated. The garden is part of the J.C. “Adopt a Lot,” program and before the dedication, which included food, appearances by city council persons and pictures of the history of the project.
Pat Byrne, a local musician, lives in the same Bright Street building as Teresa, which is next to this lot where the building that formerly occupied has been demolished twenty years or so. Every once in a while, usually after several phone calls, the owner of the property would clear out the brush, mainly with a bulldozer which pushed the vegetation to the back, creating a sloped effect to the ground.

Apparently, this went on for a summer or two before the owner relented and allowed a garden. Reportedly his price was tomatoes, which was why there was a tomato plant apparently. Tomatoes pay the rent on the lot.

Teresa– herself an avid gardener – was enlisted as Pat went through the steps to turn this lot into the first community garden on Bright Street. Anne McTernan, an architect and artist, designed the layout of the garden, which includes flowers along the border and vegetable boxes – these above ground planters had to be used because of the uncertain quality of Jersey City dirt in these urban settings. This trio may have been the start, but soon dozens of neighbors pitched in and got their hands dirty. Soil, fertilizer, mulch, seeds, tools were donated. I wasn’t able to get the names of everybody in the entire crew, except that it was multi-ethnic, multi-generational – in other words, 21st century Jersey City.

At the dedication "ceremony" for the garden, Pat stood on an cooler and told the story of the garden.
Written in chalk on the sidewalk: To New Beginnings/Beans, Brussels Sprouts & Babies/Here at Bright Garden

The garden is very clean and well tended, with room to walk, contemplate, work and harvest, between the planters. Some people got together and decided to do something about their corner of the world. Maybe that’s why human beings pursue manifestations of community – to bring out the best in each other.




Anne McTernan, Justin Parker, Pat Byrne, Teresa Lugo, Steve Fullop, Councilman, Nidia Lopez Councilwoman and Rolando R. Lavarro, Jr., Councilman-at-Large at the dedication of the Teresa Lugo Bright Street Garden.





  1. Hi there -- loved reading about the garden. I am an avid gardener, visiting from West Virginia, and my son-in-law took me down the block from where he and my daughter live to see the garden. Quite serendipitously, Teresa Lugo happened by, and she gave us a tour -- it's beautiful! What an accomplishment! Yes, the choice of raised beds was a good one -- I had my daughter's yard tested, and it is high lead -- too high for children and pregnant women to work/play in. But the garden is protected from all that with the beds and covered pathways.
    Thanks for writing about it!

  2. Thanks for writing about this Tim; is a beautiful transformation. However, record needs to be set - this is a Developer Owned lot and is a great example of how Developers can work with community members who wish to develop gardens in idle private / public spaces.

    There are SO MANY of these privately owned lots and spaces around the city and we should encourage more of these projects. In fact, there may be less constraints in working with Developer Owned or Privately Owned lots than City Owned lots.

    Don't be put off - inquire, negotiate and build gardens EVERYWHERE !!