At last night’s Board of Education meeting, one topic dominated: the reopening of the Astor Place Garden.

Members of the community and the Black Interest Team Enterprise program spoke up to ask the board to open this community space and to provide users with restroom facilities.

Calling the garden “essential to her congregation,” Pastor Doris Cherry from Miracle Temple Pentecostal Church said, “Our urban children are not always exposed to some of the things we learn at the garden. We are servants, and that’s what we do, we serve the people.”

Garden advocate Carlos Osario told the board that the garden had helped feed his family.

Board president Gerald Lyons explained that while little can be discussed in the open, the board does wish to reopen the space. 

Community members also came to the meeting to lodge complaints concerning the district’s personnel practices, which they said include preferential hiring and promoting.

Resident Madonna Morris said district human resources director Edwin Rivera ignores test scores and ranking of staff and instead selects people he favors. 

“We spend $25 following the rules and not bending and cultivating rules so that someone here can get the outcomes that he wants to get the lowest people on the list.”

President Lyons said he understood the grievances over hiring but that personnel issues would be discussed in closed session.

In other business, noting that only a third of those who had signed up to publicly comment at the meeting actually showed up to do, the board discussed the running of the meetings themselves. The board had allotted each speaker only one minute, a length that proved unnecessarily short. The issue was tabled until the full board joins in 2023. 

McNair Academic High School student and Citywide Student Council president Ashida Birla spoke of the opportunities she had received as a student of the district including the chance to record dozens of TEDTalks videos on different subjects.

“We will raise our voices on the global scale, on pertinent issues we are passionate about as informed by our different backgrounds, perspectives, communities, and schools,” she said.

In more ceremonial matters, trustee Paula Jones-Watson presented a resolution to honor LaToya Goodwin for her work with LaToya’s Closet providing clothing for students in need and for her volunteer efforts during Prom season when she uses her professional skills as a stylist to get students ready for their special night.


Vincent Onofre is a journalist based in the tri-state area. Raised in Texas, he has found a love for the northeast and New Jersey pizza. His go-to beats include politics and civics, healthcare and education....