Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Oriana & Laurel Leckert

When I walk up to Bushwick City Farm, Oriana Leckert is sitting on a handmade wooden patio having a cigarette. Today, she and her sister Laurel are helping out at the communally owned and operated farm on the corner of Lewis Avenue and Stockton Street in Brooklyn. Founders of the space wanted to grow food from the ground at the former gas station but discovered the soil was laughably bad and possibly toxic, so instead built upraised plots to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. The produce is given to families from the area, many who live in government housing, and their children come to the farm to learn how food is grown. The day I’m there, Easter, tiny radishes have just made an appearance, various leafy greens have made their way through the soil, strawberry blossoms and plum blossoms have just emerged. There’s also a chicken coop from which fresh eggs are given away every Sunday. These chickens are from Brooklyn and they are Not Scared, especially not of my camera, into which they curiously poke their beaks.

Laurel wanders amongst the chickens. She got involved with the farm a few years ago. When she’s not there, she’s a program staffer at the Brooklyn Cooperative Credit Union. She also has a black belt in karate, teaches self-defense classes, and has worked as a bike mechanic. 

Oriana then dips Easter eggs in dye under the patio’s canopy. “I’m Jewish, I have no idea what I’m doing,” she laughs. Though Oriana came to the farm through Laurel, her usual habitat is one of the many quirky-wonderful independent, DIY, and underground art spaces in Brooklyn. She chronicled them in her phenomenal blog Brooklyn Spaces, which became a well-loved book in 2015 (especially by the French, who are apparently obsessed with Brooklyn—in addition to being sold in the U.S., it was sold at department store Le Bon Marché in Paris). 

The sisters are originally from the suburbs, specifically Fairfax, Virginia, but have been living in Brooklyn for almost 20 years. Despite being four years apart, they’ve mostly been very close, and never really went through an adversarial period as I’m told most siblings do. Together, they bike across the city, are involved in national and community activism, and are possibly each other’s biggest cheerleaders. I never had siblings, but if I did I’d hope for a relationship like theirs, a sibling who is also my friend. 

Soon, children come play on the farm and dip eggs for Easter with Oriana while Laurel fixes a bike. Once they’re dry, the sisters hide the eggs and the children go running in search of them, hoping for a prize. Once all the eggs are found, Laurel and the kids celebrate by jumping on a teeny trampoline and leaping through hula hoops. 

Later, after the children leave and the sky turns an ominous gray, the sisters peel the shells off the (hardboiled) Easter eggs to eat them, their hands turning blue and red from the dye. 

Follow Oriana on Instagram and Twitter.
Follow Brooklyn Spaces on Facebook and Twitter(Oriana's Instagram is also the Brooklyn Spaces Instagram).

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