Ouch! Mosquitoes Force Closure of Community Garden

IMG_0224Stephen Rex Brown The dormant construction site next to the garden that is owned by the Educational Alliance. Green thumbs say it is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Alphabet City’s community gardens always feel like verdant refuges from city life, but lately Orchard Alley Community Garden has seemed downright tropical.

IMG_0229Stephen Rex Brown Check out the bites on Steven Matthews’ leg.

Yesterday swarms of mosquitoes forced members of the garden on East Fourth Street near Avenue D to close it indefinitely. The itchy green thumbs point to an adjacent stalled construction site owned by Educational Alliance as the insects’ breeding grounds.

“I was here playing catch with my son; after 10 or 15 minutes we had to go,” said Steven Matthews, whose legs were covered in bites from a recent visit.

Until the pools of water at the site are cleaned up the garden, which is open to the public whenever one of its 15 members is present, will remain closed.

Ayo Harrington, the head of the garden, won’t walk on the same side of the street as the garden, and said she’d been taking double-doses of Benadryl to keep the itching at bay.

“All of us have been in that garden under all kinds of circumstances,” said Ms. Harrington, who has tended to the plot since it was a pile of trash in 1989. “We’ve never once had this problem until that pit was dug.”

During a five-minute foray into the garden yesterday at around 7 p.m., the mosquitoes swarmed. The bugs were at their most severe behind a shed that overlooks the work site and its pools of stagnant water.

IMG_0222Stephen Rex Brown The sign on the garden.

In 2006 the Alliance filed plans for a seven-story extension to its building on Avenue D that would be built in the lot. Apparently, construction did not last long.

A spokeswoman for the Educational Alliance said that it was planning to have the site cleaned on a weekly basis, and that a crew was there today. The work “will hopefully improve the drainage,” she said.

A sign posted at the garden said it would remain closed until the problem was “permanently abated.”

Two months ago the Alliance filed plans to clean up and complete the foundation of the building, but it appears that construction once again did not get underway. Late last month a Department of Buildings inspector issued a violation to the Educational Alliance for the stalled site, noting the standing water.

“We’re working aggressively to get the construction recommenced,” the spokeswoman for the Alliance said.