To the Editor,
Love your article on Jim Bates’ memorial and thank you for including the information on Jim’s involvement with the Roosevelt Island Garden Club (RIGC) in the past four years. Unfortunately, there is an important error in the story.
Jim Bates was not responsible for the “creation of six handicapped-accessible garden plots with raised beds.” He was responsible for getting wheelchair users to become members and work these plots.
They have been in existence from the beginning of the gardens in our Octagon Park location, built in 1992. The RIGC, wishing to be inclusive of the wheelchair-using community on Roosevelt Island, worked with the Boy Scouts. The design and creation of the six plots were an Eagle Scout project Marc Atkins took on in 1992 under supervision of garden club member and scoutmaster Geoff Kerr. (Please see tinyurl.com/WIREgarden for more information.)
Jim joined the garden club in 2014, taking one of the six existing raised accessible plots, and noted that none of the others were being worked by people in wheelchairs. He then advocated for gardening among the wheelchair community, resulting in six new wheelchair users taking plots, so that for the first time since their creation in 1992, all of the accessible plots were being utilized by wheelchair users.
Jim did an amazing job getting the word out on these plots that were underutilized by wheelchair users and building up a vital, very active group of people into the gardens. We have had wheelchair-user Nancy Brown working a standard plot for decades in the gardens. All 132 plots are open to wheelchair users.