Newbold: Bouvier Community Garden Celebrates End of Growing Season

Former President, Andrew Marx, enjoyed the warm autumn day at the block party for the Bouvier Community Gardens.
joe suchma
NNA president Joe Suchma spoke with a member of Newbold Neighbors Association outside the entrance of the Bouvier Community Garden at the end-of-season celebration block party.

The concept of connecting with neighbors has become something of an urban myth in modern living, which revolves smartphones and computers. But in the hustle and flow of everyday life, certain organizations, like the Newbold Neighbors Association, remain committed to trying to maintain this human need for contact within their communities.

Newbold, which ranges from Broad Street to 18th Street and Washington Avenue to Passyunk Avenue, is a micro-community within the Point Breeze section of South Philadelphia.

The NNA, which started in 2007, strives for community involvement through efforts such as the Bouvier Community Garden.  Located on Bouvier Street between Wharton and Reed streets in Point Breeze, the Bouvier Community Garden is just one way the NNA has tried to improve the infrastructure of the area. Activities like monthly restaurant nights, neighborhood cleanups, tree-plantings and the annual block parties build up a rapport that fuses a relationship between new and existing residents.

The Bouvier Community Garden growing season spans from March to October. Each year, each plot belongs to a different person in the community and it is their responsibility to take care of the plants.

The second annual NNA block party recently celebrated the end of the Bouvier Community Garden’s growing season. Earlier that morning residents and NNA members participated in a neighborhood-wide cleanup to remove litter from selected blocks. Residents enjoyed an afternoon full of food, music and corn hole among other outdoor games.

Andrew Marx, former president of the NNA, commented on the mixed reactions to the group’s efforts in the neighborhood.

“It’s been different from person to person,” Marx said. “Half the people we talk to are happy with what’s going on, half are unhappy that it’s the new folks, not the old folks doing it. I know we have a lot of old folks that wish their kids had gotten more involved. They want to see people involved but they don’t always like the fact that it’s the new folks doing it.”

It has been difficult to retain a respected relationship with long-term residents since the turnover rate with newer residents is often high, Marx said. It becomes a cycle of younger people trying to improve the neighborhood until raising a family in the area becomes an issue of security.

“People have their system and they’re very set in their system,” said Joe Suchma, the current president of NNA.

There have also been issues with what types of changes are beneficial or destructive for the neighborhood as a whole.

“There are some things that we see as objectively good, like tree-planting, that a lot of people around here don’t want to see,” Marx said. “Trees, forty years ago, were not properly chosen for the planting pits and tear up sidewalks, mess up plumbing. And there’s a lot of long-held animosity against a lot of new ideas. There’s a lot more to a lot of people’s stories than meets the eye.”

NNA Community Outreach Committee Co-Chair Melanie Myers was the life of the block party with her Hula-hoop skills.

NNA Community Outreach Committee Co-Chair Melanie Myers expressed new ideas the group would like to organize in the future.

“We would like to see more green space in the area, just somewhere where people could come together on a regular basis, and also art,” Myers said. “We would like to do some sort of art project where maybe we could get some grant money and the approved ideas can set up their art pieces somewhere, either temporarily or permanent.”

Suchma commented on the community’s participation in the NNA.

“Community Gardens is about 30 people,” Suchma said. “We have 500 people on our Facebook group. Throughout the neighborhood we probably have about 100 active members.”

Marx said lack of awareness of a group’s presence is a common issue with civic organizations in South Philadelphia, as many of these groups are grassroots projects without a lot of consistency.

Suchma also discussed social media’s role in keeping up with the needs of the neighborhood.

“Our Facebook group is a big receptacle for anybody who has problems in the neighborhood,” Suchma said.

Suchma said he is hopeful the improvements the NNA are executing will positively influence the outlook many long-term residents have towards embracing new people and ideas.

“I just want to say, we don’t call ourselves gentrifiers, we’re not trying to take over the neighborhood. We’re not trying to kick anyone out of their house–they’ve been here for 20 years? That’s great, I want them to be my neighbor, I want them to be my friend, we want you to work with us to try to make the community better,” Suchma said.

To find out more or become involved with the Newbold Neighbors Association, visit the website here.

Former NNA president Andrew Marx enjoyed the warm autumn day at the block party for the Bouvier Community Gardens.


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