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US Rep Carolyn Maloney's Letter Re: Bellevue Sobriety Garden

  • Subject: [cg] US Rep Carolyn Maloney's Letter Re: Bellevue Sobriety Garden
  • From: adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2006 13:43:36 -0400

In 30 years of community gardening in NYC, I've come to realize that getting political support, and doing the political work to get that support is a crucial to the survival of  gardens as gardeners, sunlight, water and seed. 
For developers, bureaucrats, and anyone who wants the land a community garden is sited on, we're an easy,"soft target."  Hence, community gardeners, if they want to keep their gardens have to do serious political work in and with their communities to get the "juice," the support they need. That is the meaning of community gardening is 50% gardening and 100% politics. 
The Friends of the Bellevue Sobriety Garden has managed, to get a powerful political sponsor through this process.  I have never seen a support letter from any politician on behalf of a community garden as strong as US Congressperson Carolyn Maloney's.  It may just save the Bellevue Hospital Sobriety garden, if we're lucky 
Respectfully submitted, 
Adam Honigman
Friends of the Bellevue Sobriety Garden 
June 26, 2006
Ms. Lynda D. Curtis
Executive Director
Bellevue Hospital Center                                   
462 First Avenue, Mezz. 8
New York, NY 10016
Re:      The Bellevue Hospital Sobriety Garden
Dear Ms. Curtis:
I am writing you to express my profound disappointment in Bellevue Hospital=s plans to turn the Chemical Dependency Program=s Sobriety Garden into a parking lot, in order to accommodate parking spaces that will be lost due to the construction of the East River Science Park. 
I understand that under Bellevue=s plans, a parking lot would replace roughly two thirds of the Garden, leaving the Garden with a space that is not particularly good for gardening. While this land currently falls within the garden, most of this land is not arable in part due to large diesel tanks located directly underneath the Garden and in part because the remaining land happens to be relatively unfertile. While I have been informed that Bellevue has offered the director of the program, Dr. Annatina Miescher, alternative locations in the front of the Hospital, these proposed areas are unacceptable to the needs of the patients and the garden. One of the proposed areas, the park space along First Avenue, has little access to sunlight and is currently being used by homeless individuals as a sleeping area. Moreover, not only is this land significantly smaller than the current Sobriety Garden, but the proposed space lacks privacy, a necessary and valued aspect of horticultural therapy. The second piece of land offered by Bellevue, also along First Avenue and significantly smaller than the present Garden, does not mitigate the loss of the Garden and is basically a mound of unfertile dirt and concrete. 

In light of Bellevue Hospital=s valued reputation as an innovative leader in addressing the medical needs of New York City=s individuals with mental health illnesses, I am both shocked and surprised at the Hospital=s cavalier attitude toward the patients whose treatment depends on the Garden.  This Garden has played an instrumental role in healing countless individuals with chemical dependency problems over the past 17 years. Not only does this Garden provide horticultural therapy to patients at Bellevue, but it has served as a gallery for patients to display artwork, as an open space for patients, visitors and staff to congregate and relax, as well as a beautiful welcoming oasis of fresh fruit, vegetables and flora.
I am also troubled by Bellevue=s apparent lack of outreach to the community and elected officials in making this decision. Better communication at an earlier point in time could have ameliorated the problem by allowing the parties to craft a better solution while avoiding destruction of the Garden in the middle of a growing season. This top down non-inclusive approach leads to bad decision-making and poor relations with both patients and the community. Frankly, it is terrible community-based planning to involve the patients, greater community and elected officials at such a late point in the process. 
On so many levels, this current plan to eliminate space in the Sobriety Garden to add a total of 64 parking spaces is unacceptable. I strongly urge you to find alternative space for the cars in the surrounding area to accommodate the loss of parking spaces. I am more than happy to work with Bellevue Hospital, the Health and Hospitals Corporation and the community to ensure that we find a solution that works for the Hospital, the patients and the community and preserves the Sobriety Garden.  I look forward to speaking with you in the near future. 
      Member of Congress
cc: Health and Hospitals Corporation
      New York City Economic Development Corporation 
      State Senator Liz Krueger
      State Senator Tom Duane
      Assemblymember Sylvia Friedman
      Borough President Scott Stringer
      City Councilmember Dan Garodnick
      Community Board 6
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