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RE: the latest from NYC


Urban community gardening in busy city with multiple land uses competing
against each other is 100% political and 50% gardening. Unless a garden is
used and supported by all the neighborhood residents, when development
pressures develop, the garden disappear. This garden was destroyed because
the housing planned for the site was sponsored in part by a local church and
was supported by both the Citycouncilperson for the district and was
approved by Manhattan Community Board 2's land use sub-committee. One of the
reason that I personally serve on the Land Use Subcommittee of Manhattan
Community Board 4 is to serve as a garden advocate. Unfortunately, alot of
community gardeners believe that gardening, making a place of beauty is
enough...as if the beauty of the place will preserve it in a bubble. NYC is
a tough place.

There were adjacent empty lots where the housing could have been built, but
the city decided to move on this plot because it was easy. It was this type
of land grab that destroyed 7 harlem gardens last summer. 

The Trust for Public Land and Bette Middler's foundation helped save 108
community gardens from the block last spring. See
http:/www.clintoncommunitygarden.org for details on the citywide celebration
that we hosted. Unfortunately, these foundations had to buy from the city
land which rightly belonged to the people of the city for enjoyment and

The struggle to maintain the gardens is ongoing.

Ready to man the barricades?


> -----Original Message-----
> From:	allegra [SMTP:agordon1@swarthmore.edu]
> Sent:	Thursday, February 17, 2000 11:03 AM
> To:	talia@sccs.swarthmore.edu
> Cc:	community_garden@mallorn.com; samo99@juno.com
> Subject:	[cg] the latest from NYC
> tali -
> i've only just been learning about all this crazy stuff with giuliani and
> gardens lately.   is it being talked about in ny, or is it just sort of
> happening?  is it as horrific as it seems to be?  I almost cried reading
> it.  it's so weird and backwards.
> tell me what you think sometime.
> and have a lovely day!
> Police Occupy Lower East Side Garden and Arrest 31
> <Picture: T>he narrow lot on East Seventh Street, wedged between two
> apartment buildings and showing the remains of last fall's crop of
> vegetables
> and herbs, would hardly seem capable of attracting attention in the
> bustle of
> New York.
> But yesterday morning it managed to capture, for a moment, center stage
> in
> the city, encapsulating the fight that has been going on for years over
> the
> hundreds of community gardens that have sprung up on city-owned lots,
> many
> with official encouragement.
> Yesterday, as the city was sending bulldozers and the police to clear
> out the
> tiny community garden known as Esperanza Garden, the state attorney
> general
> was sending lawyers to court to try to stop them, and dozens of
> protesters
> were chaining themselves to cement blocks that they had buried in the
> garden
> months ago to prepare for just this moment.
> It was the latest pitched battle between the Giuliani administration,
> which
> wants to reclaim the properties to make way for low- and middle-income
> housing, and community advocates who see the gardens as invaluable
> solace and
> scenery in a city dominated by asphalt and concrete. The fight has been
> waged
> in the courts, the news media and the neighborhoods, and has at times
> even
> attracted celebrities like Bette Midler, who helped rescue 112 other
> lots
> last year.
> Esperanza Garden has managed to draw intense devotion on the Lower East
> Side.
> Just hours before the court hearing was to begin, demonstrators who had
> spent
> the night guarding the garden were in a tense standoff with the police.
> They had chained themselves to concrete blocks and fences in hopes of
> preventing the garden from being razed. They were chanting songs.
> And as often seems to be the case when the community gardens are at
> stake,
> confusion reigned.
> Before a judge could weigh in on the merits of the state's case, the
> city
> acted. The police waded into the demonstration, arresting 31 people and
> scattering dozens of others. A work crew with a bulldozer, backhoe and
> chain
> saws then set to destroying all traces of the garden, which had been in
> existence since 1977.
> Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who hopes to sell the lot to BFC Properties,
> a
> developer, says this lot and hundreds of others like it can be used to
> ease a
> housing shortage. The lots will create housing for people who can least
> afford it, he said, and the city's plans are legal and sound.
> "If you live in an unrealistic world then you can say everything should
> be a
> community garden," Mr. Giuliani said. "Then where would people live
> where
> they are able to get affordable housing?"
> The resistance to the city's plans includes the court challenge from
> Attorney
> General Eliot L. Spitzer, who says that the lots, which had once fallen
> under
> the city's program to encourage community gardens, should be considered
> parks, which could only be sold after state environmental review or by
> an act
> of the Legislature.
> "The fact of the matter is that this is a determination the courts
> should
> make," Mr. Spitzer said. "This is an unfortunate display of the mayor
> preventing the judicial process from operating."
> The timing of yesterday's actions left some of the gardeners and
> sympathizers
> bewildered.
> "It wreaks havoc on the conscience," said Joel Kupferman, a staff lawyer
> for
> the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project. "I am crestfallen."
> The police action also created a scene. In recent months, as it seemed
> sure
> that the city would evict the gardeners, they fortified land they had
> come to
> see as their own.
> In addition to the concrete blocks they chained themselves to, the
> garderners
> erected a tripod to stand watch, and built a sculpture of a large tree
> frog,
> or coquí, which in Puerto Rican legend is said to repel attackers. The
> frog
> had room inside for at least two people.
> Yesterday, the fortifications failed to hold.
> By 3:15 a.m., the police began towing away cars on the street, while the
> protesters gathered around a fire. By 7 a.m., the crowd of protesters
> had
> grown to 150. They chanted: "New York City has got to breathe. More
> gardens,
> more peace."
> "Even if they raze this garden, we'll take it back," said Michael
> Shenker, a
> resister. "We'll take two for every one they destroy.
> Giuliani, Fooliani! We're going to haunt Giuliani like the Furies from
> Greek
> mythology."
> Shortly after 10 a.m. the officers converged, cutting Mr. Shenker and
> other
> protesters free and carting them off to local precincts. Although the
> protesters had hoped to delay the city until Mr. Spitzer's lawyers could
> argue their case in court, they failed.
> The last of the protesters was removed by 11:30. The court did not
> finish
> hearing the state's motion until early afternoon, at which time Justice
> Richard D. Huttner of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn blocked the city
> from
> moving against 174 other lots until the court meets again next month.
> Lawyers in the case said the judge separated Esperanza Garden from his
> ruling
> because it is the subject of a separate proceeding, filed by the
> neighborhood, that has been rejected by the courts and is now under
> appeal.
> The legal distinction mattered little. By the time the order was issued,
> Esperanza Garden was no more.
> "It's incredible to me," said Ariane Burgess. "It took 22 years to
> create
> this beautiful space, and they completely destroyed it in a couple of
> hours."
> As Ms. Burgess spoke, the creak and rumble of the bulldozer could be
> heard
> from the lot, where all of the garden's structures and plantings were
> being
> crushed, including the frog. A woman wandered by, carrying a burlap
> scarecrow.
> The police said the 31 protesters were charged with trespassing and
> would be
> held overnight for morning court appearances. Some were also charged
> with
> obstructing justice and resisting arrest, the police said.
> Mr. Giuliani said he was unmoved by the timing of the arrests, and by
> Judge
> Huttner's temporary restraining order.
> "We are considering appealing that," he said. "I would ask people to
> consider
> how hard it is to get an apartment in New York, how the vacancy rate is
> nonexistent. I mean, something has to give."
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