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Re: Development on Community Garden Land in NYC

  • Subject: Re: [cg] Development on Community Garden Land in NYC
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Mon, 4 Aug 2003 16:54:58 EDT


What an afternoon of turgid reading you have had!  Sorry, buddy, but it's 
only the tip of the iceberg as far as understanding how the agreement made 
between NY State Attorney General and the City of New York works. 

One of the great things about  being an American Community Gardening 
Association member, is that you get the annual Greening Review and almost monthly 
issues of our newsletter, "The Community Gardener". Here is information on how 
you, or your organization can join:  <A 
HREF="http://www.communitygarden.org/about/membership.html";>ACGA Membership</A> The attached article is from the Fall 
2002, Volume 1, Issue 3 of that newsletter: 

The NYC Garden Sttelment - A Digest of Press Releases and Commentary

By Adam Honigman, volunteer,   <A 
HREF="http://www.clintoncommunitygarden.org/";>Clinton Community Garden</A> 

From the Attorney General's September 18, 2002 press release. " Mayor Michael 
R. Bloomberg and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced an agreement that 
will enable the City to proceed with plans for the construction of affordable 
housing while preserving almost 200 Green Thumb gardens and increasing the 
protectoin of almost 200 gardens, thus raising the number of protected gardens in 
the City to 500.  This agreement allows for the construction of critical 
affordable housing and other community facilities on City property...  The 
agreement resolves a three-year-old lawsuit over the development of City-owned 
property containing community gardens." 

Adapted with thanks from the Gotham Gazette CG web page: <A 

There are 838 community gardens in NYC (more or less) This is the box score: 

Under the agreement: 

391 will be "preserved." If Parks takes them, they're safest.  If they're 
offered to a land trust, there's still a chance local review can nix the land 

114 are subject to future sale of development.  Before a garden can be sold, 
it must go through a review process that requires the city to offer 
alternative land for neighborhood gardeners.  However, there's even less of a chance 
that the garden will be preserved.  

38 gardens are slated for immediate development.  Over 2,000 
apartment/multiple dwelling units are planned for these lots.  As expected, the bulk of these 
are predominantly in communities of color whose elected officials support 
other uses for the land - including rental units that run for $2,000 a month. 

295 gardens are not covered under the agreement.  Gardens registered after 
1999 on private property, or those that have been purchased by The Trust for 
Public Land or the New York Restoration Project are not part of the agreement. 

Flies in the ointment:  NYC's Green Thumb Program (directed by former ACGA 
board member, Edie Stone), which provides technical support for many gardens 
will remain in existence only as long as it maintains its own funding stream.

"This settlement demonstrates that the city officials recognize the 
importance of open space by preserving hundreds of gardens," siad Christian DiPalermo 
of New Yorkers for Parks. "However, it fails to permantly protect these sites 
and does not set up meaningful process for creating new gardens. " 


Zach, As you're a relative newbie to this,  and that summer reading seems to 
be the order for the day, I would suggest that you read: 

1) "The Struggle for Eden" by Malve von Hassell - Greenwood Press 
(www.greenwood.com) New York: 2002.  An excellent history of the history to legitimize 
community gardens as a land use in the Lower East Side of Manhattan & New York.  
The hardcover book runs about $65 ( a stupid marketing decision by Greenwood, 
because they would have sold tons of them, paperbound for $20.) 

2) To understand the pre-existing NY State Dept of Environmental 
Conservation's ("NYSDEC")   State Evironmental Quality Review Act ("SEQRA") - with the 
exception of the case law that you, or somebody  with access to Lexis would have 
to get you up to speed on, here is the NYSDEC website which has links to all 
relevant legislation in PDF format.  <A 
HREF="http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dcs/seqr/";>NYSDEC  Enivironmental Impact Study Guidelines</A>

3) That thing that sounds like a frog croak, ULURP, is the NYC Uniform Land 
Use Review Process, which is the process by which the City of New York sells 
it's land.  Starting at the Community Board level, the ULURP where the first 
public hearings take place in the process, first at the Land Use Committeeand 
then Full Board levels, the process then gets reviewed by planners, legislators 
and then is finally reviewed by the NY City Council's Land Use which makes 
recommendations for the full Council Vote - yea or nay. 

The devil is in the details, so I'm starting you off at my community board's 
website which explains what a NYC community board does, its make up, and how 
it does its work. 

4) <A HREF="http://manhattancb4.org/";>CB4</A>

Then I am directing you to the CB4 Planning page, which you really should 
take the time to open up and read, the information on "Public Review Items" and 
"About Community Boards" 

Please, DO NOT cut to the chase, and go directly to ULURP, because without 
that background, the ULURP process will seem entirely unintelligible.  The NYC 
Uniform Land Use Review Process, while technical sounding is highly politicized 
- saving gardens though it requires political gamesmanship and horsetrading 
of a pretty high order... your political ducks in order.  

<A HREF="http://manhattancb4.org/Planning.htm";>CB4 Planning</A>

5) This page of ACGA studies is essential for you to read and understand how 
gardens and the land use process, both in NYC and elsewhere have interacted 
over the last 30 years.  <A 
HREF="http://www.communitygarden.org/links/index.html#Studies";>ACGA Studies</A>

"Community Development Through Gardening: State and Local Policies 
Transforming Urban Open Space"  by Prof. Jane E. Schukoske, is a "must read." <A 
Garden/Land Use</A>

In answer to your question: 

Gardeners and the community members and elected officials that they have 
managed to marshall behing their garden(s) can win against developers, but always 
remember that  land use in NYC is a blood sport.  It requires a thorough 
understanding of process as well as passion and service to community for the garden 
to survive.  

Key to the survival of a community gardening survival in NYC is this 

"Community gardening is not an entitlement program, it is an opportunity to 
serve your  community. Community gardening is the creation by some members of 
the community  of a public garden for the whole community. It may be primarily 
to raise food  for low income residents, a decorative public botanic garden or 
both, but a 
 community garden can't just be a green space, it needs to serve its 

Having this as a central value and having this be the perception of what the 
garden is by the surrounding community and elected officials is vital to 
community garden viability in NYC and elsewhere. 

Best wishes, and sorry for the reading assignment, 
Adam Honigman
 <A HREF="http://www.clintoncommunitygarden.org/";>Clinton Community Garden</A>

<< Subj:     [cg] Development on Community Garden Land in NYC
 Date:  8/4/03 3:07:25 PM Eastern Daylight Time
 From:  zyoungerman@earthpledge.org (Zach Youngerman)
 Sender:    community_garden-admin@mallorn.com
 To:    community_garden@mallorn.com
 I've been going over the Sept 17, 2002 Memorandum of Agreement between 
Attorney General Spitzer and the City of New York and I'm trying to understand the 
Garden Review Process that is established for development of a community 
garden.  The process seems to be mostly a list of criteria for determining the 
value of the community garden. After this has been done, the plan must go through 
the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act "SEQRA" and "ULURP" and 
any other appproriate statutory procedures. I know nothing about these 
subsequent land use processes so I don't know what provisions they have. Meanwhile the 
Garden Review Process has nothing that seems to say if such and such happens, 
the community garden will persist and the development will be aborted. My 
question is, does the Garden Review Process ensure that a healthy community garden 
will be preserved, say because it provides information needed in "SEQRA" to 
block development, OR is it basically a "shame on you" t!
  o the developper, showing how beautiful the land is s/he's destroying, but 
in essence putting no regulating mechanism on the development.? Basically, 
does it have any teeth to stop development, or is it just a formalizing of the 
process by which a developer kicks out gardeners?
 Thank you all, and East Coast Gardeners enjoy this week of 1 part sun: 1 
part rain.
 Intern | Green Roofs Initiative
 Earth Pledge Foundation
 122 E. 38th St.
 (212) 725-6611 x 236

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