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Brooklyn, New York has been an epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, with over 5,300 deaths this year. To honor the lives lost, bring solace to victims’ families, and better serve and support the surrounding community, the Coronavirus Memorial Community Garden and Market at Vale of Cashmere in Prospect Park was founded. The Memorial will create a greener community centered around a garden that provides a resilient food supply, resulting in a healthier lifestyle and ecosystem. It is a place where people of all ages, abilities, backgrounds and cultures can come together in nature. This garden will be a sanctuary of acceptance and tolerance with everyone contributing through their own garden plots to make up the lush area. Community gardens have become important and coveted spaces in NYC and this one will amplify that success on a larger scale.
By restoring and updating the original Frederick Olmsted design of this abandoned and neglected area in Prospect Park, visitors will be able to enjoy the beauty of the space and have an opportunity to grieve. The garden’s name was inspired by Thomas Moore’s poem “Lalla-Rookh.”
“Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere,
With its roses the brightest that earth every gave,
Its temples, and grottos, and fountains as clear
As the love-lighted eyes that hang over their wave?”
The memorial and garden pools give visitors the opportunity to observe a moment of silence and reflection. The memorial experience focuses on looking down, both at your own reflection in the pool as well as at the bricks which are intermittently inscribed with phrases reminiscent of what living in 2020 was like, such as "social distancing", "wear a mask", "shelter in place", and a message of hope and unity from Governor Andrew Cuomo that “New York loves everyone."
This memorial not only speaks to the virus’ impacts, but also to what the virus brought to our collective attention as the global pandemic magnified the existing health and wealth inequalities. These inequalities did not worsen this year, but instead people began to realize and acknowledge their root causes. According to City Harvest, 1.5 million New Yorkers are projected to experience food insecurity in 2020, with Black and Latino families more than twice as likely to be impacted as White families.
The garden areas have community plots for growing fruits and vegetables, beehives and chicken coops. The Vale of Cashmere is no stranger to livestock as in 2016 goats roamed the area to help control the vegetation. There is also a dedicated market area with built-in structures and tables with seating. When the market is not open, this area will double as a community meeting space. The garden will partner with the local community, public agencies, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden as well as the private sector to develop and maintain the memorial, working farm and market. Priority of plot space will be given to families directly impacted by Coronavirus who are experiencing food insecurity, having an immediate and lasting impact on the surrounding residents health and welfare.
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