Riverside Valley Community Garden (“Jenny’s Garden”)
You may already know how important community gardens are to New Yorkers around the City. In 2019, New Yorkers for Parks (NY4P) released a podcast series, “Lots to Grow,” which goes into depth about the unique histories – and contemporary challenges – of community gardens in New York City. You can tune in here.
We are so proud of Riverside Park’s own community garden, located at 138th Street. Commonly referred to as “Jenny’s Garden,” this special part of Riverside Park was named after Jenny Benitez, a remarkable individual and a giant in the community. In 2018 The New York Times wrote about her incredible impact in Riverside Park as one of the City’s original “Guerilla Gardeners” who transformed formerly abandoned areas around the City.
With help from her family and neighbors, Jenny successfully revitalized a derelict lot into a thriving, lush garden, which has been lovingly tended by Jenny and local volunteers ever since the 1970s.
In a decades-long, never-ending process of stewarding this one acre area of Riverside Park, Jenny, alongside her husband Victor, her children, and her neighbors, created a multi-generational, multi-cultural community of urban gardeners in West Harlem.
This space was severely neglected for years and was littered with trash, abandoned cars, and home to dangerous activity. In partnership with Riverside Park Conservancy and the New York City Parks Department, Jenny engaged the neighborhood, fed the hungry, and blessed the city with a horticultural oasis that grew across a half mile of landscape along Riverside Drive.
Jenny’s Garden is a living example of collective, community-based agriculture within an urban landscape. Today the Garden continues to be led and stewarded by local volunteers.
We are inspired by the ongoing work of all volunteers at this garden, and the community that has grown around it. This piece of land (which is just shy of one acre) produces a significant harvest every year, much of which is donated to local community centers and soup kitchens.
In November 2019, Jenny Benitez passed away in her home, surrounded by family, at the age of 86. She is missed every day by so many, but her legacy will live on in the Garden, in Riverside Park, and beyond.
The Conservancy is committed to the continued success of Jenny’s Garden, and we are honored to have Jenny’s daughter, Victoria Benitez, on our Board of Trustees.
If you would like to get involved as a volunteer at Jenny’s Garden, please email [email protected]