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Glendale field grows produce, friendships

They spent years sowing the seeds of conflict, but now community groups and a yeshiva in Glendale are getting together to grow something else: produce.

Members of the United Talmudic Seminary at 74-10 88th St. joined with members of the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council, the Glendale Kiwanis and Community Board 5 to break ground on a new community garden in an unused corner of the Jewish school’s property.

“We want to be good neighbors,” Rabbi Berl Katz said of the agreement to let the groups use the land. “So far we don’t have any use for it. If the neighbors want to use it, why not?”

The 2,000-square-foot parcel of land where the garden will grow currently contains mounds of loose gravel, weeds and a sign belonging to the old Monarch Knitting Machinery Corp., which closed down before 2004, when the yeshiva took over the property.

The collaboration marked an improvement in relations between the yeshiva and civic groups in the neighborhood. In 2006, after a fight over whether the yeshiva could open a 100-room motel alongside the seminary, the city awarded a certificate of occupancy for just the school. In turn, the Glendale Civic Association filed a lawsuit against the city Department of Buildings alleging the agency was negligent in performing inspections and enforcing building code at the property.

Things were much more genial last Thursday.

“This is an example of community working together to make use of a parcel of land that is underutilized,” City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said.

Dorie Figliola, a CB 5 member and Glendale resident who spoke out against the yeshiva’s initial plans for the building, was enthusiastic about the partnership and said she hoped to have the lot prepared for planting by September.

The plot will be tended by children from the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council and the Kiwanis Club and the produce they harvest will go to senior citizens and needy families in the neighborhood, organizers said.

“We hope to make this an attractive place for all the community to come together,” said Vincent Arcuri, chairman of CB 5.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) was also in attendance. He praised the project and offered his help procuring funding.

“Certainly I’m open to any proposal or amount they need,” he said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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