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The Current State of NYC Garden Negotiations

  • Subject: [cg] The Current State of NYC Garden Negotiations
  • From: "Honigman, Adam" <Adam.Honigman@Bowne.com>
  • Date: Wed, 8 May 2002 10:24:48 -0400

Friends,

This is from Mark Leger, Brooklyn Alliance of Neighborhood Garden ( "BANG").
It is a balanced and I believe accurate report of where the negotiating
process stands today:

From the Brooklyn Garden Media Collective
http://www.brooklynbang.org

Two proposals to settle the community garden lawsuit filed by
State Attorney General Elliott Spitzer are being discussed in the
corridors of power. While the proposals reflect different
philosophies about public land and community participation in
decision-making, it also helps to follow the money.

At stake are at least $700,000 that the city receives every year
in federal Community Development Block Grants. The city has been
trying for years to get control of these funds. When the
conversation was between the Clinton and Giuliani
administrations, the money regularly went to GreenThumb, the city
agency that administers its community gardening program. Now that
the conversation is between the Bush and Bloomberg
administrations, it is very possible that the money would be
dispersed in very new ways.

Frequently in power struggles such as this, the real constituents
of a program lose out. Proponents try to polarize the issue,
playing one side off against the other, preventing the
exploration of other options and hurting concensus-building.
Before community gardeners pick sides, BANG feels that it is
important we understand the basics of both proposals. We've named
one proposal the Mass Transfer and the other Fast-Track
Legislation.

Mass Transfer Proposal - The Department of Housing Preservation
and Development (HPD) developed this proposal. If accepted,
the fate of threatened gardens would be settled in
one action. HPD would get a certain number of gardens for
development. The rest would be transferred to a land trust as
soon as the city could process the paperwork.

The New York Restoration Project (NYRP), the environmental
organization headed by Bette Midler, has made it clear that it
would accept any land that the city was willing to give it. The
land would be held by its land trust arm, the New York Garden
Trust. Under this proposal, some of the land transferred to NYRP
may not have a community garden on it. In this case, NYRP would
either attempt to organize one, or use the land in other ways,
such as plant nurseries or wildlife habitat. The fate of federal
block grant money is not clear in this proposal, but it is likely
that a portion would go to the NYRP, which would probably try to
use it leverage more private funding.

Legislation Fast-Track Proposal - Under this proposal, developed
by New Yorkers for Parks and the Municipal Art Society, the
community garden legislation, which has been in play in one form
or another since 1999, would be "fast-tracked" -- or passed very
quickly.  How? The proponents claim that if Mayor Bloomberg gave
the nod, this legislation would sail through City Council.

[For more about this legislation, see BANGšs article at
http://www.brooklynbang.org/WINTER2002/pages/winter02_article1.htm.]

In the legislation's new incarnation, garden preservation would
still happen in a gradual trickle through the ULURP process. If a
garden was approved for permanency, its land would be
transferred to the Department of Parks and Recreation. Only land
with well-functioning community gardens would  be transfered.
GreenThumb would be refashioned as a non-profit, public/private
organization. With its new status as a non-profit, Green
Thumb would seek to raise money to support the gardens that are
preserved permanently or those that continue with a Green Thumb
license.  Like NYRP, GreenThumb would probably try to use federal
block grants to leverage more private funding.

How Many Gardens?

Verifiable figures of the number of gardens, and the names of
which gardens would be destroyed, are not available.  However,
there are some ballpark figures that provide a sense of the scale
of these proposals.

Total Number of Community Gardens : 650-700

Preserved Gardens Held by Parks: 100
Held by large land trusts: 112
Held by private land trusts: 25 to 50
Held by Board ofEducation:  90+

Unpreserved gardens held by HPD: 350 - 400

Up until now, these proposals have not been publicly discussed.
This has been a game of  behind closed doors negotiation, with
calculated leaks to see what kind of public reaction they
generate. According to a document written by New Yorkers for
Parks, HPD has development plans for 160 community garden sites.
Out of those 160 plans, City Council has already approved about
60. The Brooklyn Garden Media Collective will be posting the names
of  the 149 threatened gardens that it knows about. This could be
the bulk of the list that HPD plans to take, but that can't be
verified.

What Next? 

Both proposals have been developed with no involvement
by the groups most affected - community gardeners and the
neighborhoods they serve. But that's about to change. Community
gardeners are attempting to get the proponents of both proposals
to come to a public forum, where the alternatives can be
discussed and debated.

BANG predicts that the geographic distribution of community
gardens will be an important issue. Different scenarios we've
heard *for both proposals* project some neighborhoods will be
left with no community gardens at all. These communities include
Brownsville, the South Bronx, Coney Island, and East Harlem. This
seems clearly unfair, and is probably the real basis for a
struggle on this issue.

============================================================


                        ***

BANG Alert is published by the Brooklyn Garden Media Collective,
a project of BANG (Brooklyn Alliance of Neighborhood Gardens).
It's the way to keep you keep yourself informed and *active* in 
the struggle to defend New York City's community gardens. 

    To subscribe, send a message to:

    BANG-alert-subscribe@topica.com.

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