Urban Garden Center is back in business after a nearby gas explosion in March left the store heavily damaged.
Owner Dimitri Gatanas says there are still repairs to be made to the frame of the greenhouse, which is expected to be complete by the end of this week.
The explosion, which occurred March 12 in East Harlem, leveled two buildings and left several people dead and dozens more injured. Urban Garden Center is located directly across the street from where the blast occurred, and debris from the buildings landed on the garden center property, leaving it in shambles.
“We were only one lane of traffic and a sidewalk away from the explosion,” Gatanas said previously. “We are lucky no one was hurt.”
Plans to rebuild started the day of the blast. The business has been raising funds to rebuild through GoFundMe.com. Anyone who wants to help can make a donation through the website.
“The money we raised was instrumental in getting us up and running quicker than expected,” says Gatanas. “We are fortunate to have an amazing client base, family and friend network, vendors and the good people of the city of New York. Our community at large has shown us that there are good people in a world full of strangers. Positive thinking is the secret ingredient here. We could not do it without the constant moral support of our neighborhood.”
Community involvement is important to Urban Garden Center, which sells locally grown plants and produce, and serves as a community compost center where neighbors can bring their food scraps.
“In the midst of all of this, we feel strongly about maintaining community relations,” says Gatanas. “If we are not there for our constituents, who will be? That said, we must pay it forward.”
The support received as a result of the explosion has inspired the staff at Urban Garden Center to create a fund to assist community gardens, school gardens and other garden-related entities in the community. The goal is to set aside a budget on an annual basis that is equivalent to the amount of support Urban Garden Center received following the tragedy. Gatanas says the garden center already does this in some form, but he thought it would be best to formalize the effort.
“We are still working out the details and hope to organize the effort by the summer and make it active next year,” says Gatanas. “This will allow us to engage with folks that we did not have the opportunity to engage with prior to the explosion.”
Urban Garden Center is also setting up other events. The garden center will be giving away 100 free trees on April 27 along with the New York Restoration Project and Million Trees NYC. On May 3, there will be a pig roast called El Boar-rio where the garden center will introduce its new food concept called Harlem Seoul (Korean Street Food with a Harlem twist).
For more information and links to the garden center’s social media pages, visit Urban Garden Center’s website.