Pilfered Peppers in City Gardens; Tomatoes, Too
Josh Haner/The New York Times
Jackie Bukowski, the president of the West Side Community Garden. She lamented the loss of figs last summer.
By ROBIN FINN
Published: August 5, 2011
AT the 700 community gardens sprinkled through the city like little Edens, the first commandment should be obvious: Thou shalt not covet, much less steal, thy neighbor’s tomatoes, cucumbers or peppers. But people do.
“This was an inside job,” Holland Haiis-Aguirre, a key-holder at the West Side Community Garden, said after she arrived at her plot on July 24 to pick a “big, beautiful, full-sized cucumber” that she and her husband had tended from infancy. Instead, she found a denuded vine; her prize cuke apparently was in someone else’s salad. “So frustrating,” she wailed.
By midsummer, the urban irritant of garden pilferage was in full bloom, right in sync with the crops, the heat and the mosquitoes.
On a recent evening, Jackie Bukowski, president of the West Side garden, was batting away biting insects while talking about the thefts from the garden, which has 87 vegetable plots under cultivation. She recalled her disbelief last summer when hundreds of ripe figs were looted overnight. “Every single one of them, gone,” she said, noting that the two plum trees at the garden, on 89th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues, yield fruit “for the taking” by neighborhood children, “not to encourage stealing, but to help city kids learn where their food comes from.”
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