Community rallies to save beloved Brooklyn environmental center from closing

Decades before there was Earth Day, there was the Magnolia Tree Earth Center.

Founded in 1972 by long-time Bedford-Stuyvesant resident, the late Hattie Carthan, the beloved environmental center aims to be urban America's leader in creating community awareness of ecological, horticultural, and environmental concerns and to introduce inner-city children to careers in STEM that foster urban beautification, earth stewardship, and community sustainability.

"We started a little fundraising party to raise some money, and when we raised some money, we bought some trees," Carthan said in a 1982 interview.

Now, the nonprofit group is her living legacy.

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"She decided that she wanted to save a magnolia grandiflora tree that was about to be knocked down, as well as three brownstones. So she stopped all of that from happening. She got the building landmarked, and she got the tree landmarked," says Board Chairman Wayne Devonish.

Now the famous magnolia tree is blocked by scaffolding for repairs. $350,000 of work is needed to be done on the facade, or the center will most likely be closed. 

Film and TV actor Gbenga Akinnagbe says the center means a lot to him and the community.  

"There's Black institutions that thrive, that we want to hold onto, there are Black institutions that we need to pour into, so it gives us a feeling of community and makes us love being here," Akinnagbe said.

Inspired by Carthens, Akinnagbe is lending his support to save the center from closing. 

"She's inspiring me still 50 years later, I never even met her. I wish I had. I'm inspired by her work. We're doing what we're doing now because of her what she's given us," Akinnagbe said.

The center is a nonprofit organization and has started a GoFundMe to raise money to make repairs. 

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