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The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2021

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MAY 2021 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: New York

53. (The Shoreline of the South Bronx)

After learning that the New York City Parks Commission oversees some 30,000 acres of public parkland, an artist is outraged to discover the existence of a century-old law that makes it illegal to grow or to pick edible plants on any of this land. How can it be, she wonders, that the city criminalizes gardening and foraging even as it condemns so many of its citizens to live in food deserts? The artist finds a way to skirt the anti-foraging law by converting a 5,000-square-foot barge into a floating “food forest” titled Swale that she docks at various sites around the city, especially the South Bronx. Growing onboard are apples, tomatoes, strawberries, corn and assorted vegetables and herbs, free for the taking. There is also a chicken coop housing a few hens. “I became aware,” she explains to an interviewer, “of how the waterways that surround New York City are governed, and that really they are the closest space New York City has to a true commons.” From then on it was just a matter of utilizing “one commons, the water, to support another, food.”

(Mary Mattingly)

Contributor

Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). He is currently writing a book about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès. A Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art, he divides his time between Houston and New York.

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The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2021

All Issues