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Article on Green Guerillas

  • Subject: [cg] Article on Green Guerillas
  • From: Donald Loggins dlogg60798@aol.com
  • Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2006 23:42:03 -0500

Guerillas in the Midst
Steve Frillmann, community-garden guru, answers Grist's questions

13 Feb 2006

Grill an activist! Steve Frillmann, community-garden guru, answered
our questions, below; later this week, he'll answer yours. Hit him
with the best you got. Send in your burningest questions by noon PST
on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2006. We'll publish selected questions and
responses on Friday, Feb. 17.
Questions from Grist editors

With what environmental organization are you affiliated?

I am the executive director of Green Guerillas, New York City's
oldest community-gardening group.

What does your organization do?

At Green Guerillas, we help people carry out their visions for what
community gardens can be in a dense, vibrant urban area -- urban
farms, botanic gardens, performance spaces, community centers, lungs
that help the city breathe.

Some of our activities are fairly simple, like giving gardeners a few
seedlings. Some are very complex, like organizing coalitions or
helping grassroots leaders fight to protect gardens from development.

There are 600 community gardens in NYC, and none of them are "Green
Guerillas" gardens. They were all created through the hard work and
ingenuity of grassroots volunteers, and they are all independently
cultivated. Numerous nonprofits and foundations also support the work
of community-garden groups, so we are one part of the puzzle.

How do you get to work?

I take two subway trains.

What long and winding road led you to your current position?

In my earlier days, I volunteered for the Coalition for the Homeless
and organized an association of store owners in a historic Brooklyn
neighborhood. Then I ran a program of training workshops and small
grants for grassroots groups, including community-garden groups.
That's what led me to Green Guerillas.

I am not a gardener myself, and I was not really attracted to Green
Guerillas because of the positive environmental impact of community
gardens. I was interested in helping community gardeners as
neighborhood leaders and community builders. I believed community
gardening was the most unique community-development tool I had ever
seen. It's been 10 years, and nothing has shaken that belief.

Where were you born? Where do you live now?

New York City -- I was born in Queens and now live in Manhattan.

What environmental offense has infuriated you the most?

When then-mayor Rudy Giuliani attempted to sell 115 community gardens
to the highest bidders in 1999. Luckily his desire was not realized.

Who is your environmental hero?

There are dozens of community gardeners in New York City who are my
heroes. The work they have done -- often against all odds -- is

What's your environmental vice?

I am a city kid -- if I can't have concrete under my feet, I need
lots of it nearby.

How do you spend your free time (if you have any)?

Walking on the above-mentioned concrete, with my head up, looking for

What's your favorite meal?

Chipirones (squid in black ink), salad, crunchy bread, red wine.

Which stereotype about environmentalists most fits you?

I believe that big business and most politicians will not act in a
way that's good for the earth unless forced to.

If you could institute by fiat one environmental reform, what would
it be?

I would create a program in every city that would ensure small-scale
community-initiated projects -- such as community gardens, rooftop
gardens, neighborhood farmers' markets, etc. -- have all the funding
and legitimacy they needed to succeed.

If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would
it be?

Whatever your cause -- stand your ground, pitch a tent, and invite
people in who are willing to do hard work: wild-eyed idealists,
pragmatists, activists, lawyers, planners. Don't get too caught up on
consensus, and don't get discouraged by conflict. You can get a lot
done together while disagreeing on important points along the way.

Donald Loggins

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

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