Astoria CSA left out in the cold, looking for a permanent home

csa-strawberries

The Queens Chronicle reported on the situation with Astoria CSA that still hasn’t been resolved – they no longer have a home. ARROW, a community center in central Astoria, was their home – and had been for many years – but because of a bureaucratic SNAFU, money, compounded by some communication issues, they were asked to leave the Field House. They are still looking for a place to set up shop permanently. 

Currently, they are holding their distributions under a tent outside the ARROW Field House (GMAP), but the Parks Department slapped a “Temporary” tag on the tent, though they have stated that the CSA can remain outside for the remainder of the season. This CSA usually does a winter share, meaning there is a distribution once a month or so in the winter months (a regular season with a CSA is approximately June to December), which may may post a unique challenge during the winter. The Queens Kickshaw has offered their space as a temporary location, too, if things take a turn for the worse with this location.

The main reason Astoria CSA has been evicted is because of budget cuts in the Parks Department. Apparently these budget cuts “forced the Parks Department to outsource ARROW’s after-school program to the Central Queens Y,” according to Stacey Ornstein, a leader of the CSA. She says another reason the CSA has been told to leave is because of fire codes, but  she believes there is something not quite accurate about this analysis.

“They’re saying that the space is only certified for 40 people … so we’ve been operating illegally. But if you look at that space, it’s fire-coded for like 100 people … It’s never been a problem in the past.”

Ornstein has a copy of the letter that was signed by Iris Rodriguez-Rosa, Parks’ chief of recreation in Queens, which approved Astoria CSA being able to hold their distributions in the Field House. There has also been an online petition with over 500 signatures, and local City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has also stepped in to help out the CSA, though his efforts in this arena were in vain.

The Astoria CSA has been providing farm fresh produce, fresh meats, local honey and other value-added foods for hundreds of people. Their first year was 2007, and they moved into ARROW in 2008, so they’ve been there for five seasons so far. The purchased shares themselves provide food for at least 300 people, and the CSA also donates some of the produce to the Steinway Food Pantry, which serves between 200 and 500 people. The CSA sees themselves as providing crucial community food support.

Farm to table program evicted [Queens Chronicle]