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TNY Times: The NYS Attorney General & Mayor Bloomberg are Negotiating Gardens

  • Subject: [cg] TNY Times: The NYS Attorney General & Mayor Bloomberg are Negotiating Gardens
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Sat, 27 Apr 2002 20:29:21 EDT
  • Content-language: en

New York Times
April 26, 2002

City in Talks to End Lawsuit Over Community Gardens


he Bloomberg administration is negotiating with New York State Attorney
General Eliot L. Spitzer to put to bed one of the most rancorous legal
battles left behind by the previous administration, one that pit gardens
against low-income housing, Bette Midler against Rudolph W. Giuliani, and
the city against various plantiffs.

The Giuliani administration had adopted a policy that city lots, which over
the years had become speckled with tomato plants and sunflowers, should
cease being community gardens and be used instead for housing or economic
development or put up for sale.

Environmentalists and community groups fought the city, asserting that the
tiny plots were the closest thing that poor neighborhoods had to a park.
Lawsuits ensued, including one brought by Mr. Spitzer arguing that
auctioning off the lots violated state environmental laws.

Bette Midler bought some of the plots. In July, a judge in Brooklyn denied
the Giuliani administration's request to lift a court order protecting more
than 400 gardens. 

But now the Bloomberg administration and Mr. Spitzer have begun negotiations
that both sides hope will result in some gardens reverting to the city for
development of low-income housing, and some going to communities, officials
from both sides say. Mr. Bloomberg has said recently that he believes that
community gardens are viable in some situations, but that housing is
preferable in others.

"We are in discussion with the attorney general's office, to see if the suit
can be resolved," said Jeffrey D. Friedlander, a lawyer for the city. "I
don't know the numbers precisely, but some gardens would be developed and
some would not."

He added: "We hope to resolve the lawsuit soon, in discussions, and the
sooner the better."

City officials would not comment on whether those gardens not slated for
development would be sold to a land trust, like the New York Restoration
Project, which bought 111 gardens for $1 million in May 1999.

But Joseph Pupello, the president of the Restoration Project said: "I will
probably be able to talk about it next week. If there's a way that we can
preserve a high number of gardens in one fell swoop, it would be absolutely

The city gained legal ground with an April 8 ruling by Judge Leon Ruchelsman
of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn that rejected a suit brought by the
Green Guerillas, a community garden advocacy group, to block the development
of the city's 600 community gardens without an environmental review process,
because they are "dedicated parkland."

That argument was a keystone to the lawsuit brought by Mr. Spitzer's office,
which prompted Justice Richard D. Huttner to issue a preliminary injunction
in 2000, barring the auction of city gardens.

"I don't know when he will rule on the attorney general's suit," Mr.
Friedlander said. "One of the issues that is common to both is the question
whether these gardens are dedicated parkland. If they are, then parkland is
unalienable and cannot be sold. But that claim was rejected by the judge."

The Bloomberg administration, which has been trying to settle various pieces
of litigation from the previous administration ‹ and to prevent certain
types of other suits from beginning ‹ was receptive to the idea that they
could develop housing on the sites of some gardens, as long as they followed
state laws dictating that environmentalists study the land first, the
officials said. The Giuliani administration resisted this idea and wanted to
begin development unfettered; as such, the two sides were never able to

The city's law department and officials from Mr. Spitzer's office resumed
discussions three weeks ago. The discussions, officials on both sides said,
are going well but are far from over, and will resume next week. "We are
hopeful of working with the administration to resolve the matter," said
Darren Dopp, a spokesman for Mr. Spitzer.

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