New Growth Come Spring for NYIT Old Westbury Campus

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Imagine a new addition to NYIT Old Westbury’s already scenic campus: a place where you could go to sit and enjoy the outdoors in the early fall or spring. A place where events could be held and new friendships could be made. A place where you could get your hands dirty and your body healthier. With hard work and vision, this place could soon become a reality and it’s called the NYIT Community Garden.

The NYIT Community Garden was first created in September of 2013 with the hope of growing organic vegetables and herbs. Three raised wooden soil beds filled with a mixture of soil, compost, vermiculite, and peat moss grace the lawn located behind the Balding House. Back in September, seeds for kale, beets, broccoli, lettuce, scallions, and herbs were planted in the soil in hope of growth and a fruitful harvest. To withstand the cold winter weather NYIT’s Old Westbury knows all too well, each of the three wooden soil beds have been fitted with cold weather frames to allow the harvest of herbs and veggies all year round. The raised soil beds ensure that crops stay about 20 degrees warmer than the outside temperature.

In order for this project to become a reality, five individuals from different departments of expertise came together and worked their magic to bring something brand new to the campus. Individuals such as Ms. Pilar Visconti (NYIT’s Director of Campus Dining), Dr. Tobi Abramson (Director of The NYIT Center for Gerontology and Geriatrics), Mr. Gregory Banhazl (Business Development Director), Mr. James O’Rourke (Foreman of Painting & Facilities Department), and Dr. Lorraine Mongiello, (Department of Interdisciplinary Health Science). All of these individuals have taken time out of their already busy schedules to help achieve the goal of a community garden. It looks like the community aspect of the community garden is already having an effect.

Besides the great work that these individuals have already done with the initial creation of the Community Garden back in September, it’s now on to even more improvements, this time with the help of NYIT’s own in-house advertising agency, The Carleton Group. This semester, Account Executive Brendan McLaughlin, along with other students in his group, are working with the Community Garden board made up of the faculty previously mentioned to help transform the garden into the new focal point on campus.

According to Mr. McLaughlin, “The idea behind the Community Garden is to unite generations both young and old through the joys and rewards of organic gardening. The garden is a way to help bring back the traditional values of volunteerism, gardening, and connectivity in

To add on to what Mr. McLaughlin has already mentioned about the project, Tobi Abramson, Ph.D., Director of NYIT’s Mental Health Counseling Program says,

“When I first heard about the Community Garden project, I suggested that it be an intergenerational community garden based off of literature that I saw that spoke about the benefits of gardening for individuals both young and old. After proposing this idea to the other members, they were ecstatic about the new direction the community garden could go in.”

Another interesting point Dr. Abramson brings up is the reason behind using raised soil beds. Apparently, raised soil beds were used in the Community Garden so that older adults, or those with disabilities, would be able to participate without having to get down on the ground making the garden a destination for every type of volunteer.

While Dr. Abramson initially focuses on the effects the Community Garden will have on those who will utilize it, she also says that funding was a very important part of this project in order to get it up and running. “Myself, along with my co-chair in the project, Dr. Mogiello submitted an internal grant known as an (ISRC Grant) for the funding of this project,” says Dr. Abramson. “The grant has been funded out of the office of Dr. Shoureshi, Vice President of Academic Affairs,” Dr. Mogiello replies.

With the help of the generous grant, as well as assistance from Massachusetts based company Green City Growers brought in by Greg Banhazl, the NYIT Community Garden is one step closer to being a thriving reality.

With such a broad range of choices of where to place such a garden, it was interesting to discover why the location behind Balding House was decided on. According to Pilar Visconti, “Locations around campus were scouted based on space and sunlight exposure.  The location behind Balding House was the best location since it was an undisturbed area with full exposure to sunlight.”

The Community Garden project involves the help of many different individuals making the term community a reality in this situation. Just this past September, students from Dr. Mongiello’s class participated in planting, tending, watering, and harvesting the brand new garden. The first fruits of labor were harvested just in time for the Thanksgiving break and according to Dr. Abramson, students along with dining services even had the opportunity to cook an autumn lunch with some of the garden’s crops.

As far as the future of the NYIT Community Garden goes, Pilar Visconti tells us that it’s bright. According to Ms. Visconti, “Since the implementation of the garden, we have so many amazing ideas of what it can be.  Right now it is small and does not cultivate enough produce to support the dining program or farmer’s market. Ideally, we would love to be able to use the produce in our dining halls, open to the community for farmer’s markets, donate to food banks etc. The garden is more than that though, its intention is to educate our students and our local community and bring people from all ages to work together in the garden.”

With a better understanding of what the Community Garden stands for, a project such as this reminds us that NYIT is not only a school; but also a place for people to gather and improve the lives of themselves and others. The NYIT Community Garden will be something generation after generation can use and that’s what makes it great for a campus as unique as NYIT Old Westbury.

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