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FW: CYBERGARDENS: NY Daily News Editorial

  • Subject: [cg] FW: CYBERGARDENS: NY Daily News Editorial
  • From: "Honigman, Adam" <Adam.Honigman@Bowne.com>
  • Date: Fri, 3 Aug 2001 15:55:24 -0400

This from a developer of low income housing in NYC

-----Original Message-----
From: Tony [mailto:tthesing@hudsonplanning.org]
Sent: Friday, August 03, 2001 2:58 PM
To: cybergardens@treebranch.com
Subject: CYBERGARDENS: NY Daily News Editorial

News from the CYBERGARDENS mailing list 

Thanks for forwarding that infuriating editorial.  I am drafting a letter to
the Daily News Editorial staff.  My position is probably not completely in
line with many of you, but I wanted to share it with any of you who care to
read it.  (Thanks to tjbrandt, I learned that I should come up with a short
version--any suggestions would be welcome.)

In response to "New York City's Garden Weasels", Editorial, August 3, 2001:

Of course there is a critical need for housing, and I believe that some
community gardens should be considered for development, but why not
implement a fair and rational process to determine which sites are to be
developed?  Do you completely disregard the improved quality of life that
community gardens have brought to many communities around our City?

I am a developer of housing for homeless New Yorkers and a site that I am
helping to develop is currently stalled by the injunction against developing
on community gardens.  The development will provide housing and support
services to a population in desperate need of both.  The local Community
Board supports the proposed development.  The community garden on the site
is beautiful but has long been controlled by one person with little
community participation.  We would be happy to consider alternative sites,
but the City will not provide any.  I think that the proposed housing is far
more valuable than the current beautiful garden.  

Our plans are frustrated by the injunction, but I don't blame Attorney
General Spitzer or Judge Huttner.  The Giuliani Administration has had ample
opportunity to get the injunction lifted by agreeing to a rational review
process before any community garden is destroyed.  Costs and benefits must
be weighed and alternative sites for either the housing or the garden should
be considered.  In many cases, gardens will still be destroyed to create
affordable housing, but to say that this should be done unilaterally without
any review is a statement of arrogance and ignorance.  Arguments like those
presented in your editorial boil down to "It's mine, I let you borrow it,
but now I can do whatever I want with it."  This might be true in the
private sector, but this is public property, not just the Mayor's.  Use of
public goods must be considered through a deliberative process.

Many of the gardens have become oases in neighborhoods without adequate open
space or cultivated plants.  They provide an opportunity for denizens of the
concrete jungle to nurture life and revel in its beauty.  This value
shouldn't be underestimated and certainly not disregarded.  Housing is
needed, but community gardens are not the only places left to build.
Regardless, simplistic arguments such as yours won't win over a Judge; there
won't be any housing on any community garden sites until a fair review
process is implemented.  Unfortunately for projects such as the one I am
working on, we may have to wait for a Mayor capable of reason and compromise
before anything happens.

-----Original Message-----
From: Toby Brandt [mailto:tjbrandt@treebranch.com]
Sent: Friday, August 03, 2001 12:43 PM
To: cybergardens@treebranch.com
Subject: CYBERGARDENS: NY Daily News Editorial

Friday, August 3, 2001
New York City's
Garden Weasels 
Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? On city land, and
pity the politician who tries to take it back.
That's the misguided attitude of the community gardeners who appear to be
living in Mother Goose land, where the rule of law does not apply.
There are about 700 gardens on city-owned land in the five boroughs. They
began sprouting in the late 1970s, with the help of the Parks Department, as
a way to beautify empty lots. But every plot planted under the Green Thumb
program came with a contract clearly stating that a garden was an "interim
site use" until the city needed the land.
Two years ago, Mayor Giuliani gave some of the lots to the Department of
Housing Preservation and Development to use for low-income and senior
housing. But state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer got an injunction to
prevent the development of the properties until the environmental impact was
Former Mayor Ed Koch wrote to Spitzer last year, saying: "During my
administration, we made a number of sites available for community gardens.
However, these sites were turned over for gardens on the understanding that
they would be returned to the city if needed for housing. I continue to
believe that this is the best policy to be followed in this case."
But rather than accept the legally binding contracts, state Supreme Court
Justice Richard Huttner last week refused to lift the injunction. Instead,
he asked each side, "Why don't you sit down and negotiate with me?"
Because there is nothing to negotiate.
The gardeners who refuse to surrender the properties are nothing more than
squatters. They have no valid claim to the sites. They are guests who have
overstayed their  welcome. And Huttner has overstepped his authority,
preventing the city from building much-needed housing on its own property.
There are thousands of city-owned vacant lots, many of which might make
lovely temporary gardens. But City Hall would be foolish to ever again let
any neighborhood residents get their hands on one. They'll chain themselves
to the tomato plants rather than give it back - no matter what promises they
The city was trying to do something nice for the communities, and now it is
being demonized. Let no good deed go unpunished.

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This list is operated by the Neighborhood Open Space Coalition and 
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sites concerning the environment, open space, and related urban 
issues in New York City.

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