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Looks Like The "Garden Weasels" Were Right!

  • Subject: [cg] Looks Like The "Garden Weasels" Were Right!
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2003 10:46:14 EST


Forgive me, please, for dredging up old NYC garden history. But with real 
estate developers all over this country looking at inner city community 
gardens with a continued,  proprietary interest, I felt the following 
newspaper "clipping"  might be useful to have in your files as you enter 
discussions with your own city fathers. 

Some background:  This article  was buried on page 33 of  today's NY Daily 
News (02/25/03). Back in 1996, when former Mayor Giulian's administration i 
transferred many rubble strewn  lots and viable community gardens to Dept of 
City Services for sale, the city's argument was that sale of this land would 
create revenue for the city and that developers would revitalize poor and 
marginal neighborhoods with new housing.

No good "garden weasels" (the nickname given to  community gardeners in an 
infamous August 2001 Daily News editorial ) said that the lots, bulldozed 
gardens or no, would be picked up by speculators -  and left vacant -  until 
market conditions made a "killing in real estate" a sure thing.  Mr. 
Giuliani's adminstration replied that the free market would create incentives 
for the new, affordable housing that the city desperately needed.  At one 
point,  that summer, the Mayor said that "selfish gardeners" were keeping the 
city from building housing for the homeless on their garden sites.  When "The 
Coaliton for the Homeless" sent out a press notice saying that there were 
thousands of empty lots that had not been built on and that community gardens 
stabilized communities, the papers didn't publish it.  And when later that 
year, due to the events of September 11th, Mr. Giuliani became "America's 
Mayor", the issue was put on the back burner.  

Since then, NYC elected a new mayor, mandated by term limits.  You've read 
about the  NYC community garden settlement of 2002, which has injected a bit 
of normalcy into the garden preservation process. 

However, it looks that the "Garden Weasels" were right about what would 
happen to our bulldozed gardens and this city's empty lots: 

NYC Daily News - Tuesday, February 25, 2003, pg.33

Developers let city land just sit
When the city decided in 1996 to auction vacant lots it owned, the policy was 
supposed to be a win-win: The city would get money, and neighborhoods would 
get new housing built by private developers.
But a report published yesterday suggests the idea has been more of a loser, 
especially in poorer areas of Brooklyn and the Bronx, where most of the 
city's vacant lots have long been concentrated.

The study, by the community activist organization ACORN, found that of 1,350 
lots sold in these areas since 1996, two-thirds remain vacant - a tragic 
waste, say advocates, in a city with a severe housing shortage.

"What happened is that you got speculators who did nothing with these lots," 
said City Councilman Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan), who called for hearings.

No building pledge

Advocates argued that the policy was flawed from the start, in part because 
developers were not required to build anything in exchange for buying the 

Homes that did get built often cost more than local buyers could afford.

The study, which called on the city to halt public auctions until the 
policies could be reviewed, focused on Mott Haven, Hunts Point, Morrisania 
and Highbridge in the Bronx; Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, East New York, 
Crown Heights and Brownsville in Brooklyn, and Far Rockaway in Queens.

Asked about the report yesterday, Bloomberg administration officials said 
they still planned to auction city land this summer.

But they added that Mayor Bloomberg has assigned a task force to review how 
the city disposes of public land with an eye toward creating more affordable 

"This is a priority for us, and we are taking a look at it," said spokeswoman 
Jen Falk. 

Originally published on February 25, 2003 
Best wishes,
Adam Honigman


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