I volunteer in the Clinton Community Garden ( "CCG") on W. 48th Street in
Manhattan. A Community garden under the aegis of the NY Parks Dept ( we were
the first to be transferred to Parks in 1983) we occupy a 100 X 150 foot mid
block plot of land between 9th & 10th Avenues. We serve an area between West
34th St. & West 59th St. Between the west side of 8th Avenue and the Hudson
River. A locked garden, we have over 2,000 keys to our park -like formal
front garden. In the rear portion of the CCG we have 108 individual raised
beds ( about the size of queen size mattress each) which are distributed via
wait drawn from the pool of garden key holders. Please check our website
<A HREF="http://www.clintoncommunitygarden.org/">Clinton Community Garden</A>
for details on our mode of governance, etc. If you want to get in touch with
out garden's steering committee members, gardeners, want a tour please
contact me via email.
1) For example, if only two tenants are running a garden and only those two
are allowed entrance, is it a community garden?
No. A community garden is run by community members for the benefit
ofcommunity. Otherwise it is a private garden, or squatters calling a space a
community garden. As an empty lot, it falls into the hands of citizens in a
kind of defacto "eminent domain" It then requires neighborhood support and
political action to legitimize it. Community gardening is 50% gardening and
100% political action.
2) Would you call a community garden a public space? In some ways, it seems
Urban community gardens are public space. The fences and keys are to protect
the garden from vandalism, theft, use as a toilet. The Clinton Community
Garden (in a recent Environmental Impact Study done as part of the
developer's Universal Land Use Review Proposal ( "ULURP") for the "Studio
City" project proposed for 10th Ave. & 44-45th St.) was defined as
"excellent, heavily used, public space." Few other park spaces made the cut
as "good". Community gardens are by definition "community gardens" of and not
separate from the communities they serve.
However this is a special use public space, like a baseball field is a space
dedicated to baseball, a community garden is a green space designed as a
public garden & or a space for neighbor hood resident to raise food and
flowers in. As there are rules for behavior in a public library, there are
rules for the use of a community garden ( ie no drugs, destruction of
property, theft, etc.)
3) Many gardens have individual plots and no communal plots. Access may be
limited to only those who live in the neighborhood. Why are lockable gates
such an ubiquitous characteristicof gardens. What do you think?
The public space/individual plot combination of the Clinton Community Garden
is in my opinion close to ideal. This grew out of the way the garden
developed. Once the larger community got involved and desired that wonder-of
-wonders: a broken glass, crack vial, and dog crap free, peaceful lawn
spacewith benches, circular brick paths, herb garden, and decorative flower
beds - it got it. We work hard on maintaining a place for weddings,
gatherings and reflection.
4) Another question I had was how gardens are designed. There's more
media about how they get torn down than how they got started. Do
gardeners hold a design competition or is there one person who usually
calls the shots?
We started with a few talented gardeners, folks who began to reclaim an empty
garbage strewn lot and turned it into beauty. Ideally, it's like that kid's
book, "Stone Soup" where everyone eventually joins in and works to create
something of beauty. It's an incremental process. Today, we a Landscape and
Design committee as part of our garden Steering Committee. We vote on
projects - as artists in dirt parliamentary procedure it keeps us from
whacking each other with trowels or worse
5) Do any gardens have design standards that later gardeners have to abide
It depends on how formal a garden gets. We have formalist ideas in out front
public area that usually are approved by the Landscape & Design and
Volunteer committees in grueling meetings. Generally the most expert
gardeners do the front public area beds as a public service.
For our individual plots in the back garden, see our garden rules on the CCG
link above. We encourage composting, organic gardening, no trees ( the root
systems are too invasive for our small beds) and legal plants ( cannabis
sativa is verboten.) We're cool, though: we may cringe, but if somebody wants
a pink flamingo, we have no rules against it.
We have our garden rules in English, Spanish and Arabic.
Best wishes, let me know if you need to know more,
Clinton Community Garden
community_garden maillist - firstname.lastname@example.org