Sheet Metal Union Pitches in to Build New Beds for Downtown Community Garden

By Denise Civiletti Apr 1, 2019, 12:03 pm

SMART Local 28 union members worked with River and Roots Community Garden members to rebuild the garden’s beds this weekend. Courtesy photo: Brian Nigro

Downtown Riverhead’s community garden is starting its ninth season with brand-new garden beds, courtesy of Sheet Metal Air Rail Transportation Union Local 28.

SMART Local 28 donated all materials and supplies for building the new beds. Union members worked alongside community garden members this weekend to build 34 new beds, with 14 of them double high, to accommodate gardeners with physical limitations.

“We at River and Roots are extremely thankful to Local 28 for their generosity. The donation removes a significant financial obstacle for the garden and allows us to focus our funds on other projects within the garden and community outreach,” said River and Roots co-founder and board member Laurie Nigro.

River and Roots cofounder Laurie Nigro and her husband Brian, who is a member of SMART Local 28.

Nigro’s husband Brian is a member of SMART Local 28. He pitched the idea to the union. “They like to help communities,” she said.

The garden, located on West Main Street at the foot of Griffing Avenue is steps away from the Peconic River. SuperStorm Sandy in October 2012 left the garden under water. Floodwaters moved several beds completely across the garden. River and Roots members put the garden back together after the storm, rebuilding or refurbishing nine of the garden beds.

“Though the damage was fairly minimal then, it took its toll in hastening the rot,” Nigro said.

About half of the garden’s first set of beds was built in 2011 by Suffolk County inmates participating in a vocational training program run by the Nassau-Suffolk Building Trades Council. The rest were built by members of the the community garden.

The vacant lot owned by the Town of Riverhead before River and Roots Community Garden and an adjacent playground were developed there. File photo: Peter Blasl

River and Roots is situated on a formerly vacant plot owned by the Town of Riverhead that was often a litter-strewn eyesore. The town granted the group a license to use the land in 2011, after two years of work by Nigro and River and Roots cofounder Amy Davidson to find a spot for the community garden they envisioned. The pair believed a community garden would help jumpstart downtown revitalization.

“We have had so much support in this endeavor from the town, the BID, the Cooperative Extension, the library, the schools and the community in general. It is a real community project,” Nigro said at the garden’s June 2011 ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Since the garden opened, the town has built a children’s playground adjacent to it, installed a new walkway to the riverfront from West Main Street and refurbished and reopened the long-shuttered comfort station.

The new garden beds ready for planting Monday morning. Photo: Peter Blasl

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