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Running Bryant Park as a Volunteer Firehouse

  • Subject: [cg] Running Bryant Park as a Volunteer Firehouse
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2004 16:58:44 EST


As an update to the Community Garden settlement in New York City:

NYC Parks Greenthumb, which is the NYC government agency serving community gardens has a basic licensing agreement for the use of NYC owned land as community gardens. We have had this lease at the Clinton Community Garden since 1986 and it is the standard lease for all Greenthumb Gardens.   While it is a lease, and is consistent with all current Park's Dept leases it seems daunting to some really fine community gardeners who have been through the garden wars here in NYC.

As part of the archiving of these discussions for the use of other cgs in cities all over the US and Canada, I forward this exchange, which originally appreared on the Cybergardens listserv.

To explain the title of this posting - I showed Dan Biderman.  who managed  the privatized rennaisance of Bryant Park Bryan Park.org (an 8 acre  park behind the main public library in Manhattan , the one with the lions "Patience" and "Fortitude, Library Lions  ) our third of an acre community garden to explain this type of land use to him.  A very bright man, Dan and I often disagree about many things, including an Olympic/Jets Football stadium in my neighborhood, but he got the essence of  we do at the Clinton Community Garden  Clinton Community Garden right away. Dan said, the "The Clinton Community Garden is like Bryant Park run as a volunteer fire house."
A conceptual leap, but really encapsulates the sense of a professional service performed by volunteers for their city.

Here goes:

Subj: [tb-cybergardens]: GreenThumb license agreement
Date: 2/10/04 4:37:36 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: joncrow@earthlink.net
Reply-to: cybergardens@treebranch.com
To: cybergardens@treebranch.com
Sent from the Internet

News from the tb-cybergardens mailing  list

The push is on again to get folks to sign their GreenThumb license agreement
but I never felt we finished the discussion of whether folks think it's in
our best interest to do so.  It's been over a year since we tried to address
the issue, but there are still parts of the language that the Bear's
gardeners find confusing and threatening.

What's the consensus?  Anyone know gardens who have not signed and why? have
any groups asked and received transfer to any of the land trusts? Any groups
who signed it have a lawyer look at it first?

-- crow


At the Clinton Community Garden, we've been happy with the Green Thumb agreement, our contractural existence with the NYC Parks Dept, the conditions of accountablity and neighborhood access since our official transfer to Parks in 1984 and our first license agreement in 1986. It was read by our garden steering committee, attorney/gardeners, as well as title and real estate lawyers who are part of our garden community.

We believed then, as we do now, that permanence for  a community garden, in a city that closes firehouses for monetary issues, depends more on the service, accessiblity and perceived value of the community garden within that community than any language in the license agreement.  Bottom line: We serve, therefore we exist.

The Clinton Community Garden ( please see our website at  Clinton Community Garden ) is sited on a third of an acre in Clinton/Hell's Kitchen, in Manhattan CB4, which runs from  59th and 14th Street, in the Manhattan area West of 8th or 6th avenues.

The catchment area for garden key holders and members runs from 59th to 34th streets - the Hell's Kitchen are of CB 4. For more details on how this works, please refer to our website.

With over 4,000 keyholders and dawn to dusk hours, 365 days a year (with garden gates kept open during Saturday and Sunday volunteer hours on weekends) we have found our connection to Parks useful with our local community board, and with getting helpful NYPD officers assigned to street fair events that the garden has co-sponsored.

Parks and Greenthumb have also contributed services and products to the garden over the years, including the painting of our 175 foot long cast iron fence, bench repair, some plantings as well as the usual soil amendments.

The Clinton Community garden provides to our neighborhood, at no cost to the City,  the only Parks space rated as "excellent" in independently generated Environmental Impact Statements in our area.

For the Clinton Community Garden, the arrangement works very nicely. However, we take our reponsiblity to maintain a highly accessible, safe, visually attractive, citizen managed public space very, very, seriously.

As we have received the right to garden on the people's land, the people of our neighborhood need to have access and get an amenity in excess in value of the monetary value that real estate tax dollars might otherwise yield.  We do that - this is community gardening according to Hell's Kitchen standards.

Best wishes,
Adam Honigman
Clinton Community Garden

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