Garden in Columbus’s South Side neighborhood stands as beacon of light

Holly Zachariah
| The Columbus Dispatch

As the beat of West African drums carried through the neighborhood and the smoke from a fire built especially for s’mores swirled in the air, Iesha Hardy snaked her way through the garden beds and plucked some of the last of this season’s harvest.

Into her plastic bags she stuffed eggplant and tomatoes and collard greens and kale — and that was just to start. Daughter Bella had picked a pumpkin from the patch and dropped it into a bag, too.

That this bounty for their tummies was plentiful was a blessing, Hardy said, but the nourishment of the soul that has come to them by way of this postage-stamp patch of land on Berkeley Road is what has mattered to her family the most.

“They’ve built something beautiful here,” said Hardy, a 29-year-old insurance claims adjuster. “In a neighborhood where there isn’t so much to do, this is an oasis.”

As she spoke, she waved one hand around “Our Garden” (known here as “The OG” for short), a gathering spot just steps away from the busy intersection of Livingston Avenue and Berkeley in the historic Driving Park neighborhood of the city’s South Side: “It’s a special place.”

When Marjorie Chapman hears people say those things, she cannot help but smile. A yoga instructor who “retired” — she never really stops — after she closed the studio and spa she owned for years Downtown, Chapman paid a local nonprofit $1 (and a gift tax) to acquire the narrow plot of vacant land last year.

She had no concrete ideas for it, knowing only that she wanted to create a safe space that could bridge the generations of her neighborhood. She aimed to build a sense of community and — if everything went according to plan — nurture the minds and hearts of local kids and teens, creating mentorships that could steer them along a path of good choices and one free of trouble.

In just two summers, the difference Chapman has made is remarkable, said Rozz Crews, who lives just a couple of streets away and volunteers regularly at the garden.

“She is an auntie figure,” she said of Chapman. “The kids come here to hang out because they feel relaxed. They are more free and safe than at home or out in the neighborhood.”

Here, on this narrow, 0.12-acre strip, colorful vines snake up trellises and marigolds, pansies, violets and mums fill pots and buckets and rain boots and anything else that can contain them. Birdfeeders and wind chimes sway in the breeze, and photo collages of the people who hang out here adorn a gazebo. Comfy cushions cover folding chairs and homebuilt benches made on the cheap.

In the nooks and crannies created by the flow of the landscaping, Chapman and her volunteers hold story times, crafting sessions, yoga classes and “Kool-Aid and conversation” for the kids.

In the center is a homebuilt stage where in September a red carpet was laid

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Kitchen fire burns apartment building on Syracuse’s North Side

Syracuse, N.Y. — Residents of a North Side apartment building escaped injury after a fire this afternoon in a first-floor apartment.

a group of people on a boat in the water: Firefighters on the scene of a fire at 100 Pond Street on Syracuse's North Side. Sept. 29, 2020.

© Jacob Pucci | [email protected]/Jacob Pucci/
Firefighters on the scene of a fire at 100 Pond Street on Syracuse’s North Side. Sept. 29, 2020.

Firefighters were called to 100 Pond Street around 12:32 p.m. after a passerby saw smoke coming from the building.

When firefighters arrived, they found an active fire in the kitchen of a downstairs apartment—one of five units in the building, Syracuse Deputy Fire Chief Bob Cussen said.

Four children were in the apartment at the time, but all made it outside safely.

Around 15 people lived in the building, Cussen said. No injuries were reported.

The fire was largely contained to the one apartment, Cussen said, but the first and second floors both sustained smoke damage. Cussen said he believes the building had working smoke detectors at the time of the fire.

It took firefighters around 15 minutes to extinguish the flames.

The exact cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Contact Jacob Pucci at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @JacobPucci.


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7 On Your Side: Magnificent vegetable garden in New Jersey killed after pesticide over-spray

POINT PLEASANT BEACH, New Jersey (WABC) — A magnificent vegetable garden that had been cultivated for a decade by a New Jersey homeowner was gone in a matter of minutes, the victim of an over-spray of pesticides from their neighbor.

But this wasn’t just any neighbor, it was one of the biggest utility companies.

So when the homeowners were powerless to get reimbursed, they called 7 On Your Side for a jolt of justice.

Bruce Boyle’s once-beautiful organic vegetable garden in Point Pleasant Beach is now garbage, through no fault of his own.

“Ten years of preparing the soil, gone in two minutes because of someone’s negligence, it’s heartbreaking,” he said.

Also Read: 7 On Your Side: What does NYSC’s bankruptcy mean for members?

His next-door neighbor, utility giant Jersey Central Power and Light, hired a contractor, TruGreen, to spray pesticides on the fence that borders the two properties.

Boyle says that minutes after spraying, the weeds shriveled up — but the chemicals also killed everything thriving on the other side of the fence, melons turned to mush.

“I ran over and said, ‘What are you spraying?'” Boyle said. “He said, ‘Roundup,’ and my heart dropped through the ground instantly. I was heartbroken, but I was more concerned for my kids. They were nauseous and sick.”

The plants were withered on the vine, literally.

“Six months on this year’s crop, and it’s all gone,” he said.

Also Read: 7 On Your Side eases frustration over trade-in car loans in New Jersey

And this was no ordinary garden. Boyle begins in the basement, raising 60 vegetable plants from seeds. Then, the fisherman puts his catch in the dirt.

“I bury 30 bluefish three feet down, that gives the soil the nutrients,” Boyle said. “That way I don’t have to use chemicals. It’s just nature.”

His garden was healthy, bountiful, thriving. But now it’s burned, blistered, and blighted.

“The veggies are burned all over,” he said. “It’s shot, garbage. All this fruit is tainted.”

He reached out to JCP&L, who he says told him to take a hike.

“JCP&L says it’s not their problem because they hired a subcontractor to do this weed work,” he said. “They were numb to it. They could care less about what they do. They have a big sign up, they’re good for the environment, yet they’re spraying Roundup on my kids.”

Also Read: 7 On Your Side helps NYC teacher get late husband’s pension

We contacted JCP&L, who referred us to their contractor, TruGreen. After weeks of back and forth, they sent a representative to survey the damage.

TruGreen apologized, agreeing to pay the Boyles $5,000 for damage it caused.

“They accepted what they did and acknowledged the wrongdoing,” Boyle said.

Even though $5,000 will just barely replace the soil, the sweat equity of tending the garden is priceless. Still, the father of four will replant and start all over.

“I’d like to thank 7 On Your Side so much,” he said. “None of this would

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San Antonio natives have green light to open new burger and beer garden on East Side

While the empty lot at 2014 WW White Road may not look like much now, two San Antonio natives are hoping to transform it into a new restaurant and outdoor space to bring food, fun and family together.

Owners J.R. Vega and Kevin Koenen hope to open their new restaurant Buckets Burger and Beer Garden next month. The open-space restaurant will include cornhole, volleyball and a playground for the kids — a place where people can hang out, have dinner and feel safe during the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Photos show Jollibee in San Antonio is almost ready

“It’s going to be the whole works,” Vega said. “We want to provide a place where people can be safe and happy … when people leave, we want them to be smiling and we hope this can be like a home away from home.”

Buckets will eventually take up 6-acres of land and will include food and drink specials served in — you guessed it — buckets.

The pair, who have been friends since kindergarten, have always known they wanted to go into business together. Separately, the two have owned a number of bars and restaurants in the San Antonio area. When Koenen saw the space on WW White available to lease, the two jumped on the opportunity. Within a week, they conceptualized their new venture and signed the lease on the 6-acre plot.

READ ALSO: Popular San Antonio food truck moving into restaurant at the Pearl food hall

“There just aren’t a ton of things to do in that area of town and people are looking for things to do to get out and be together but also be safe with COVID-19, so this was perfect,” Koenen said.

While its still in the infant stages, Vega and Koenen hope to open Buckets’ dining room and patio in mid-October, with the full concept finished by the spring. They said don’t want to create problems by rushing to open the full restaurant and are taking their time to make sure everything is right before fully opening.

Patron can expect classics like beer-can chicken, BBQ, big desserts and of course lots and lots of burgers. Vega said they are even throwing around the idea of creating a 12-pound burger challenge.

“We want our menu to be fun and creative,” Vega said. “It is stuff that no one really offers, so we want to take it and run.”

Taylor Pettaway is a breaking news and general assignment reporter for | [email protected] | @TaylorPettaway

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Community pitches in to help rebuild reading garden on Detroit’s west side

DETROIT – Local residents are taking part in efforts to help rebuild a reading garden on Detroit’s west side.

“Twenty-four hours later, I probably got over 100 emails, 50 phone calls about people wanting to donate, help, come clean up, funding donations, book donations, garden supplies, people just asking what can we do to help,” said Derek Clark with Greenfield Union Elementary-Middle School.

Clark is the Dean of Culture at Greenfield Union Elementary-Middle School. He says the support continues to mount as more people ask about how to help.

Original Story: Reading garden at Detroit elementary school trashed by vandals

He has not been able to respond to all the emails. “I haven’t been able to respond to everybody, and when I do respond to somebody another two, three, four, five emails are coming in,” he said.

All of this just one day after someone destroyed the reading garden designed by kids at the school.

“We had some water hoses that were out here, that were sliced up, books, completely damaged, covers torn off, pages ripped out or they were soaking wet, there are holes in the ground where the pots were damaged, so we have to get all new pots. The garden was trampled. To hurt the kids like that, I think the whole community felt the need to do something,” said Clark.

Brand new books have come in overnight to help. Just 11 books came in Friday.

“So what started out as a setback ended up being a comeback. It’s actually a blessing in disguise, so really thank you,” said Clark.

Clark said he’s organizing a community day to fix the garden.

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Rumi’s Kitchen restaurant review: You’ll find poetry on the plate and mannequins by your side

There’s a temperature check at the door, involving a fancy device that requires looking into a mirror. (Don’t worry, your image isn’t recorded.) Tables are set with hand sanitizer, and utensils aren’t doled out until you’re seated, and then in thick cloth bundles secured with twine and a verse from Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet and mystic. “When you lose all sense of self,” read my tag, “the bonds of a thousand chains will vanish.” When Georgia initially lifted restrictions on dining in April, Mesghali was among the 120 Georgia restaurateurs who pledged not to open right away.

Curious thing: More tables are occupied than you might expect, especially for early in the week and in Phase 2 in the District. As is made clear when you scan the dining room, however, most of the figures aren’t breathing. Mannequins — as trendy as drive-ins and pool rentals during the pandemic — give new meaning to the phrase plastic people. “Men” dressed in black shirts and fezzes and “women” draped in saris take up half the space, blending in enough with beating hearts that you eventually forget how few occupants are paying customers.

But first, the expected jokes. “If one of them moves,” whispers a companion, “you’re on your own.”

Little niceties follow. Your choice of still or sparkling water is free, and eyes light up when warm taftoun (flatbread) and a little garden of herbs and radishes land on the table. “Sabzi,” a server introduces the fillip, which includes feta cheese and walnuts (a combination that also shows up in takeout orders). The server suggests making little sandwiches, or eating the nibbles with your meal. Cocktails are swapped, affording those in the same bubble at home the chance to debate the merits of say, the Sharbat and the Black Rose. The former is made with gin, rose water and citrus. The latter features mezcal, lemon bitters and barberry, the fruit that gives the drink its dusty pink color and sweet-tart finish.

Born in Isfahan, Iran, Mesghali relocated to Los Angeles in 1977, where he left school after the 10th grade to work in restaurant kitchens. In 1995, the chef moved to Atlanta to recover from an addiction to alcohol and drugs, and to return to the craft he dreamed about pursuing since he was a teenager. His Washington restaurant, scheduled to open in March, eventually greeted customers in August. “Okay, this is the way the world is right now,” the chef says. “How can we make it work?”

Success springs from kashk badenjoon. It’s a fabulous mush of fried eggplant that’s bright with mint, sweet with fried onions and stippled with cream of whey. If there were a pantheon of comfort foods from around the world, kashk badenjoon would be a shoo-in. Many of the other appetizers will look familiar to aficionados of Middle Eastern restaurants. But few of them approach the finesse on display at Rumi’s Kitchen. It will be hard to go back to regular stuffed grape

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Fair Oaks kids grow pandemic side project in backyard garden

During World War II, Victory Gardens were all the rage. In order to help stave off a food shortage, people planted vegetable gardens in their yards. Not only did they help make sure the soldiers off fighting had enough to eat but they gave the people a purpose and helped them feel like they were contributing something of value during the war.

The springtime start of the coronavirus pandemic this year coincided with a rebirth of the home garden for many. For the Gordon family of Fair Oaks, it was time to tear up the backyard to try something new — and old.

Tavon Gordon, 17, is used to spending his summers in basketball camps with his friends and Del Campo High School basketball teammates Jackson Taylor, Brayden White and Damjan Agovic. As it became clear in March the summer was going to look very different for the Gordons’ eldest son and his friends, the idea came quickly into place.

The Gordons knew Tavon and his friends would need a way to get together outside and have a safe activity during quarantine. They consulted Kenneth Karl White — one of their neighbors and Brayden’s father — who is a very experienced gardener. Game plans were drawn and the boys traded basketball drills for urban farming.

“When COVID first hit in the middle of March, we were all trying to figure out what is ‘shelter in place and why is there no toilet paper?’” said Chantell Gordon, Tavon’s mom. “And wondering if we would run out of food — What’s going to happen? Our neighbor grew up on a farm and has a garden at his house. They even have chickens and a greenhouse, and he’s rented land somewhere else in Sacramento so he can have a bigger plot. He asked us what we thought about doing this.”

The families decided to use the Gordon’s backyard to start another garden, and have the boys’ core group of friends work on it.

“It would give them a chance to do something — to be outside, and it’s a skill they can take with them,” said Chantell.

White drew up plans based on what was best to plant at the time, and how long those plants would need before they could be harvested. The Gordons tilled up their backyard. Both Chantell and her husband Greg were mostly working from home and figured the money they were saving on gas to commute would offset the costs of getting started with the garden. Whether it did or not, it would be worth it to keep the boys busy with something other than just video games. In April, the families all put on their masks and headed to the nursery to pick up their first plants.

Under the guidance of their neighbor, they were starting to grow tomatoes, peppers, corn, squash and strawberries.

“It’s been so cool to see it happening,” said Chantell.

The garden has proved to be a silver lining during stay-at-home orders, since

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A beer garden with social distancing coming to Pittsburgh’s South Side

In the waning days of summer, people often find themselves trying desperately to hang on to the things that go with the warm season. Kenny Gould is no different.

Gould, an entrepreneur, beer lover, writer and founder of Hop Culture Magazine, had been dreaming about doing a pop-up beer garden down by the riverfront. As the covid-19 addled summer of 2020 wore on, that dream morphed into doing some type of Oktoberfest event. That’s when The Highline, an office/retail complex with an elevated riverfront green space on the South Side, entered the picture.

“I wasn’t really thinking about it until the Highline got in touch with me and asked me if I was interested in using the space to throw a craft beer festival,” said Gould.

Despite having organized some 30 beer festivals around the country, Gould was not convinced that this was a good idea.

“I said ‘I’m not throwing another beer festival for at least a dozen months just because of everything that’s going on,’” said Gould. “But then I told them I was thinking about this other idea that I think could be done in a really safe way and could be really fun.”

The idea, a beer garden with safe social distancing built in, becomes a reality this Friday when Lagerlands Socially Distant Beer Garden opens to the public. Hop Culture Magazine is joining forces with Cinderlands Beer Co., De Fer Coffee and Tea and Burgh’ers Brewing, maker of burgers and other snacks, to bring it all to life.

The beer garden will be open at The Highline’s outdoor space at 339 McKean St from September 11 through November 1, rain or shine.

The space, which is family-friendly and open to pets, can accommodate 100 people at a time. In order to operate safely and prevent overcrowding, organizers are using an online reservation system. The beer garden is open 5 to 10 p.m. on Fridays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Everyone is required to bring a mask.

“It’s really easy to think of this as not normal but for now, at least, this is normal,” said Gould. “Pittsburgh has a pretty long history of working really hard and making things work and hopefully we’re doing justice to that tradition with this event.”

As for entertainment, Gould is looking at bringing in jazz musicians and has also bought a projector and a 20 foot inflatable screen to show family friendly movies.

“It’s something I’m really excited about” Gould said. “Not only that but to be able to hire a dozen people and probably more on Saturdays and Sundays, people who are looking for work, people who are in the food and hospitality industry who may have been furloughed or put out of work, is pretty cool as well.”

For more information, email Gould at [email protected]

Paul Guggenheimer is

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