[cg] New York Times Article on NYC's gardens
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>Date: Fri, 23 Apr 1999 13:05:31 +0000
>From: Federico Savini <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Organization: Pratt Institute
>The CYBERPARK mailing list
>By ANNE RAVER
>A private conservation group, working with a coalition of 25 donors, has
>offered the Giuliani administration $2 million to buy 165 community
>gardens, most of them slated for auction next month. But City Hall has
>rejected the offer as a bad deal for taxpayers.
>In part because the value of the city-owned garden lots is much greater
>than $2 million, the auction is scheduled to proceed on May 13. "If
>they're so interested in buying them, they ought to go buy them on the
>open market, at auction," said one top-ranking mayoral aide, speaking on
>the condition of anonymity.
>The group, the Trust for Public Land, says it does not buy land at
>public auctions, and even if it did, it could not pay anywhere near what
>private developers are expected to bid for the city lots.
>When properties are put on the auction block, the city sets a minimum
>acceptable bid for each lot. The total minimum for the 115 gardens to be
>auctioned next month is $3.5 million, and they could bring in a great
>The Trust, a 20-year-old nonprofit national organization, has lobbied
>city agencies for two years to have many gardens released to a private
>land trust. Last month, the Trust offered the city $2 million, in the
>hopes of halting the auction, and paving the way for setting up a review
>process for all 650 of the city's community gardens.
>"We have a group of funders willing to start pooling their money,"
>Salvatore LaSpada, the philanthropic adviser of Rockefeller Financial
>Services, said last week in a telephone interview.
>"But we are not willing to purchase at fair market value. We would come
>forward with money to purchase the gardens and set up capital
>maintenance funds, but only if the city would dispose of the gardens in
>a rational, planned way."
>Other foundations prepared to contribute to a garden fund include the
>New York Community Trust, the J.M. Kaplan Fund and the Rockefeller
>Brothers Fund. All are part of the Open Space Funders Collaborative, a
>coalition of about 25 foundations and individual donors formed two years
>ago to help preserve the gardens.
>The Parks Department has designated about 50 of the city's community
>gardens as permanent gardens, protecting them from development; 650
>other gardens could be bulldozed if approved for sale or development.
>During the past two years, about 20 community gardens have been razed
>for housing or commercial development; at least 100 more are scheduled
>Two decades ago, the city allowed community groups to convert lots into
>gardens, with the understanding that the arrangement would be temporary.
>The Giuliani administration decided to auction off hundreds of lots, in
>search of revenue.
>The 115 gardens up for auction in three weeks will be sold to the
>highest bidder, for any use allowed by zoning. They include 20-year-old
>gardens like Parque de Tranquilidad on the Lower East Side and the
>Garden of Eden in Queens, which are magnets for community activity, as
>well as some that are poorly maintained .
>The administration says the city needs more housing, but critics contend
>that there is no guarantee that all, or even most, of the property will
>be turned into housing. "This is not about housing," said Mr. LaSpada.
>"It's about taking these lots out of an existing public use and putting
>them in the hands of private owners who will bulldoze them, or pave them
>over, or let them turn back into garbage-strewn lots."
>The Trust learned last Friday that the city was not interested in its
>offer. "We finally got word on Friday that there would be no discussion,
>as the city had decided that any purchases would take place at the
>auction," said Andrew Stone, director of the city's program for the
>City and state legislators have been working on several fronts to stop
>the auction, and to have the gardens reviewed on a case by case basis.
>On Monday, the Brooklyn Borough President, Howard Golden, testified
>before the parks committee of the City Council in support of a measure
>that would put a one-year moratorium on the sale or transfer of any of
>the community gardens developed under the city's so-called Green thumb
>program. After one year, the garden could not be sold without approval
>by its community board, borough president and the City Council. He urged
>the creation of a city land review board to review city-owned properties
>and decide their best use.
>Another proposed bill would simply prohibit the city from selling any
>Greenthumb community garden.
>If passed by the City Council, both laws would require mayoral approval
>-- considered highly unlikely -- and then approval by voters in a
>November referendum. Other efforts to preserve community gardens --
>including possible state legislative action -- would, if acted upon,
>likely take years to win approval.
>The Giuliani administration did release one garden from the auction
>list: the Gil Hodges Memorial Park for Senior Citizens, in Park Slope.
>The Mayor's director of intergovernmental affairs, Jake Menges,
>pronounced the garden best used as community space after he went to see
>it in response to community pressure.
>Councilman Kenneth Fisher of Brooklyn said he hoped that outpourings of
>support for gardens, and protests against the city's policy, would
>convince Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani to reconsider his position.
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