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[cg] update: the fight for NYC's community gardens

>Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 02:19:30 -0400
>From: "gardens@cybergal.com" <lakauffm@erols.com>
>Subject: update: the fight for NYC's community gardens
>To: "The Mighty Email Army" <gardens@cybergal.com>
>X-Priority: 3
>X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
>X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V5.00.2014.211
>Reply-To: cyberpark@treebranch.com
>The CYBERPARK mailing list
>>From gardens@cybergal.com   4/28/99
>Mayor Giuliani is barreling ahead with his plan to auction off
>114 beloved New York community gardens on May 13.
>City Hall recently rejected the Trust for Public Land's
>offer of $2 million to purchase 165 city-owned gardens,
>with a top mayoral aide saying, "If they're so interested
>in buying them, they ought to go buy them on the
>open market, at auction."
>A few days later the City pulled a number of lots off the
>auction block. They weren't, however, gardens.
>They were -- I'm not making this up -- the back yards
>of 13 Bensonhurst residents, being used for private
>swimming pools, private barbeque pits, and the like.
>Said the City, "We're going to find a way to sell each
>homeowner his own segment."
>(see full news articles at bottom of message)
>We have to take a stand against Giuliani's efforts
>to destroy our public spaces.
>We can't let a bull-headed, short-sighted mayor
>destroy what so many people have created.
>That's why a group of garden coalitions and garden
>supporters have called for a protest outside the City's
>pre-auction seminar on May 5, one week before the planned
>auction. This is the event where potential buyers learn how
>to bid on auctioned property--including the 116 gardens.
>WHAT: Stop the Auction protest for community gardens
>WHEN: Wednesday, May 5  at 5:00 PM
>WHERE: 199 Chambers St (2 blks west of Bway)
>This protest may be our last chance to stop this
>irresponsible auction. It is being organized by grass-
>roots volunteers, on a shoestring. WE NEED YOUR
>The protest will have two distinct parts: a legal picket and
>a civil disobedience action. We need lots of people to
>help with both parts -- you definitely do NOT need to
>get arrested to participate.
>The legal rally will be a colorful and peaceable way to
>let potential buyers -- and, via the media, people throughout
>the City -- know how much we treasure our community gardens.
>The civil disobedience will be a non-violent sit-in, designed
>to send a clear message to City Hall about how strongly
>we feel about protecting our community gardens.
>If you're considering engaging in civil disobedience,
>we encourage you to attend our training workshop.
>People who do not want to be arrested but are interested
>in playing a direct support role (legal observer, marshal,
>etc.) are also encouraged to come, and anyone is welcome.
>Our final workshop in nonviolent civil disobedience
>before the May 5 Stop the Auction protest will take
>place this Sunday, May 2, from 3-6pm
>     WHERE: Charas/El Bohio Community Center
>                      605 E. 9th between B & C
>Here's one of the organizers' report on last Sunday's
>Sunday's civil disobedience training at Park Slope
>Methodist Church was a satisfying success. The training
>was held in preparation for the May 5 Earth-shaking
>Protest and Civil Disobedience.
>The training took place in the church's lovely community
>garden, which really brought home what we're all fighting for.
>A good mix of people showed up, including clergypeople, school
>teachers, retirees, as well as several veteran garden activists.
>The non-violence portion of the training was conducted by
>members of More Gardens! Coalition, Lower East Side
>Collective, and Brooklyn Alliance of Neighborhood Gardens.
>Mehira Gilden from the National Lawyers Guild provided
>expert advice on the likely charges and consequences of
>the action.
>Awareness and support for this demonstration is clearly
>growing. So far more than 50 people have expressed
>definite interest in participating in the civil disobedience
>portion of the protest, including gardeners from Brooklyn,
>Manhattan, and the Bronx; City Councilmembers Adolfo
>Carrion and Christine Quinn; and former Green Thumb
>director Jane Weissman.
>News articles on recent developments follow; see the
>accompanying action alert for what you can do to
>help out.
>All best,
>The Mighty Email Army is a direct action-oriented list in
>defense of community gardens and other public spaces,
>sponsored by the Lower East Side Collective
>For background on the community gardens fight, visit
>To join the Email Army, or offer feedback, write
>City Rejects $2 Million Offer for Gardens
>NEW YORK TIMES   April 23, 1999
>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
>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 deal more.
>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
>to go.
>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 Trust.
>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 mayoralapproval -- considered highly unlikely -- and
>then approval by voters in a November referendum. Other efforts to
>preserve communitygardens -- 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.
>"City Takes Land Chop Off Menu:
>Won't Auction 13 Back Yards"
>by Gersh Kuntzman
>NEW YORK POST, Sunday, 4/25/99
>Jim and Nancy Lewis' backyard pool is finally safe.
>The city's plan to auction off a piece of the Lewis' and 12 neighbors' back
>yards have been quietly shelved, fixing one of the city's oddest geographic
>"That's great news," said Jim Lewis, who has lived on 16th Avenue in
>Beonsonhurst for 26 years, all the while knowing that a diagonal 8-foot
>slice of his back yard belonged to the city.
>The Lewis' back yard -- and the yards of those 12 neighbors -- are a remnant
>of a long-lost cart path called Bennetts Land that once ran from Gravesend
>Bay to what is now 84th Street.
>The last, unsold vestige of Bennets Lane now cuts diagonally through the
>back yards of houses on 16th Avenue and Bay 11th Street between 86th Street
>and Benson Avenue.
>Last year, the city put the entire 3,200-square-foot lot up for auction with
>a minimum bid of $5,500 -- which would have translated to $425 per
>But there was a catch: The same auction also included a long-abandoned city
>health clinic on 16th Avenue, which also abutted the Bennetts Land land.
>The homeowners objected, fearing that a developer would buy the clinic and
>then outbid them forthe entire Bennetts Land lot. Then the developer would
>evict the residents' pools, gardens, sheds and garages, tear down the
>clinic, build his own house and use all the Bennetts Land land for his own
>luxurious back yard.
>Bowing to the residents' concerns, the city withdrew the land from auction.
>But this year, the lot was back on the auction block -- this time priced at
>a whopping $23,500.
>The price increase had some residents believing that a neighbor, developer
>Joseph Cordano, had persuaded the city to reappraise the land andprice itout
>of the 13 homeowners' range.
>Cordano, who could not be reached for comment, has denied the charge. In
>fact, before the scuttled 1998 auction, Cordano offered to buy the entire
>parcel and sell each homeowner his plot for a mere $10.
>Lewis said the offer was refused because no one trusted Cordano.
>"Possession is 99 percentof the law," Lewis said. "He was never going to
>turn it over to us."
>But for now at least, there's nothing to worry about. The Department of
>Citywide Administrative Services confirmed that the 13 back yards are again
>off the auction list.
>"We're going to find a way to sell each homeowner his own segment," said
>spokeswoman Denise Collins.
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libby@igc.apc.org       Libby J. Goldstein       phone & fax: 215-465-8878
            Philadelphia      USDA zone 7A       Sunset zone 32

        My garden must be n-dimensional if it's out here in cyberspace.

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