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NYC, NY: TPL Garden PR Piece

  • Subject: [cg] NYC, NY: TPL Garden PR Piece
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Mon, 21 Jun 2004 22:35:08 EDT

Mon Jun 21 16:14:37 2004 Pacific Time
New York City Community Gardens Thrive Five Years After Auction Threat
NEW YORK, June 21 (AScribe Newswire) -- Five years ago, New York City auctioned land to the highest bidder. Of the lots on the auction block, 113 contained community gardens that had served as neighborhood parks for anywhere from 10 to 25 years. In the final hours of May 14, 1999, the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit land conservation organization, finalized the purchase of 63 of the gardens and the other 50 were sold to the New York Restoration Project. All told, the final price was $4.2 million.
The auction was protested by hundreds of people at demonstrations from January through May. The auction was ultimately held up by lawsuits brought by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and others, putting the city in a position where it was willing to make a deal with the Trust for Public Land, which had made multiple offers to purchase the gardens to protect them as public open space.
"We just couldnt bear the thought of the gardens being converted to other uses," said Andy Stone, director of TPL's New York City Program, which has been working to establish, protect, and support New York City gardens since 1978.
Since that fateful day, the Trust for Public Land has been working with the gardens to ensure their long-term sustainability as public open spaces, investing more than $1.5 million in capital improvements - such as water systems, fences, and sidewalks - and setting them up for the future. A key part of the ongoing management of the gardens has been the establishment of new non-profits: three urban land trusts, which, when combined, form the largest community garden land trust in the country.
"It was important to us that these sites continue to be managed by the communities that lovingly and painstakingly created them," said Stone. "A second but equally important goal was to train gardeners to play a lead role in running and operating new land trusts with all of the rights and responsibilities that come along with being landowners."
"The Trust for Public Land saved us," said Loretta Welcome, president of the Clayton Williams Garden. "We have a lot of people who care about holding onto this little piece of open space, and they made that possible."
Welcome has been gardening in her Central Harlem neighborhood for eight years. "I knew how to grow plants, but if you asked about recruiting new members, community organizing, or fundraising, I wouldnt have known where to start. Now I've learned about all of those things and more thanks to the training provided by the Trust for Public Land, and we have a larger membership and more community events as a result."
The Trust for Public Land's intensive land trust formation program has involved working with the land trust leadership and overall membership of more than 700 community members to provide training and mentoring in the legal, organizational, ownership and governance issues related to forming and operating urban land trusts.
The formal incorporation of the Manhattan Land Trust, Bronx Land Trust, and Brooklyn Queens Land Trust took place in March 2004. Their non-profit status is secured and they have written and agreed to formal bylaws for governance, established boards of directors, and will hire staff later in 2004. All three of these membership organizations are rare examples of major land trusts populated primarily by people of color, and governed by an extraordinary group of racially, culturally and economically diverse people that includes not only the gardeners themselves but also professional resource people on the boards of directors.
"Once they've settled in as organizations, we'll then transfer actual ownership of the gardens," said Stone, a step he expects will be made in 2005.
The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national non-profit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Established in 1978, the New York City Program is the Trust for Public Land's oldest and largest urban initiative. Over the past quarter century, the program has helped gain permanent protection for more than 300 acres of scarce city land, and has provided organizational, outreach, real estate and construction assistance to hundreds of community groups. TPL's programs focus on three main areas: helping to create and sustain community-managed parks, playgrounds and community gardens in the citys most disadvantaged neighborhoods, providing environmental education to New York's young people, and conserving our remaining natural areas for future generations to enjoy. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information visit us on the web at www.tpl.org.
Mary Lou DiNardo, TK/PR Public Relations Inc., 212-572-0767; tkpr1@aol.com
Andy Stone, The Trust for Public Land, 212-677-7171; andy.stone@tpl.org
Susan Clark, The Trust for Public Land, 212-677-7171; susan.clark@tpl.org

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