Toronto vs NYC community gardens - URBAN OUTDOORS newsletter
Thought this list might be interested in an update on the threatened NYCity
gardens, from the email newsletter called Urban Outdoors (Neighborhood Open
Space Coalition) - Marla Rhodes, Northeast Food System Partnership
Date: Mon, 08 Nov 1999 09:48:09 -0500
Subject: URBAN OUTDOORS: Community Garden Update
To: email@example.com (URBAN OUTDOORS Mailing List)
Community Garden Update
November 5, 1999
IN TORONTO, THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT BUILDS COMMUNITY GARDENS.
While NYC works to destroy twenty years of community building, the
City of Toronto moves in the other direction because they believe
that community gardening saves lives and money. In Albany, Toronto’s
Dr. Trevor Hancock, speaking to a meeting of health professionals,
noted that community gardening was critical to healthy communities,
providing gathering spaces for neighborly support, green oases for
psychological health and cleaner air, and opportunities for physical
activity to reduce the incidence of many debilitating conditions
including hypertension, heart disease, diabetics, asthma, and some
cancers. (He failed to mention fresh nutritious food) As a result, he
told the assembled audience, the City of Toronto Health Department
was engaged in a program to expand community gardening opportunities
in that city.
DAGGER STILL AIMED AT 500 GARDENS
Although more than 100 gardens were preserved by NYC's philanthropic
community in a last minute deal, the paying of ransom to the city has
not encouraged Mayor Guiliani to view the remaining gardens as worthy
of preservation. Thus, development proposals put in place both before
and after the sale are moving forward, placing many gardeners in the
position of seeing the vise slowly close on the only "cared for" open
spaces in their communities.
While parks and public spaces in affluent communities are
increasingly being cared for with private donations solicited from
surrounding businesses and residents, apparently sweat equity in low
income neighborhoods is not put on an equal footing by a Mayor who
sees an opportunity to "cash-in his chips" and leave the people that
have the least public space with even less.
LAST CHANCE FOR CITY COUNCIL?
While Council Speaker Peter Vallone has voiced opposition to the
unrestricted sale of community gardens during the height of this
year's crisis, City Council has done nothing to protect the verdant
spaces. Although they have had the opportunity to preserve some
gardens, they have in every case in which they were part of the
process allowed garden destruction to move forward. In fact, some
Council members have moved to take gardens out of the recent land
trust sale package so that they can be sold to developers.
While legislation has been introduced in the State Legislature to
protect community gardens, City Council, which is specifically
mandated to be the people's voice in local matters, has thus far
chosen not to be an activist voice. The reasons for this are complex.
They include financial ties to developers, fear of a vindictive
Mayor, lack of instructions from the Council Speaker to move ahead,
and even a genuine feeling that not all of the gardens are worthy of
preservation. While it is unfair to judge community stewarded spaces
by the same standards as the city-funded botanical gardens, the
reality is that pending State legislation, which protects all the
gardens, will probably not move forward. Thus, City Council must
agree on some process to give the gardeners a chance to fight for
their own permanence, even if it is not the absolute protection that
many community gardeners would prefer. It would cost the city nothing
to at least protect the spaces while they are in active stewardship.
FOUR BROOKLYN GARDENS BULLDOZED
When the Keap Street and Flags Gardens in Williamsburg were bulldozed
early this summer, one of the founding families of the two adjacent
Casita-style gardens just gave up on New York. He took his family
back home to Puerto Rico, depriving NYC of the kind of bootstrap
energy that this city has always admired. Brooklyn's Sunflower and
Generation Gardens were also torn down around the same time. Four
more Brooklyn public gardens have received vacate orders this fall,
and more are expected.
TEN BRONX GARDENS ORDERED TO VACATE
In the Bronx, ten of Community Board #3's gardens are to be taken in
one coordinated attack. Among the gardens that have received orders
to vacate are the Peachtree and Sun Set gardens founded more than
twenty years ago. In addition to frequent local gatherings, the
gardeners at this twin garden have been host to a national bicycle
tour to promote the concept of an East Coast Greenway, which is
likely to pass this site. The South Bronx may yet get the greenway,
but gardeners wonder if the City government will first kill
everything that is green?
THE LAST PUMPKIN SMASH
AT THE PROSPECT HEIGHTS COMMUNITY FARM?
Last week, the Community Farm, one of Prospect Height's most active
public spaces, held its annual Pumpkin Smash. The jack-o-lanterns are
brought from around the neighborhood to the garden, where the
children are waiting. They handle the next task with gusto and
efficiency. The mess is brought to the compost heap, where it
provides nourishment for next year’s crops. This year, the faces of
the adults showed a bit more concern than the carved faces on the
A week earlier, the city's development department (HPD) made an
appearance at Brooklyn's CB8 to push expedited plans to develop the
garden and land around it. The gardeners had done their work well,
and the Community Board was on record as supporting the space, but
the HPD representative told the Board that the "farm" would not be
transferred to parks. HPD Commissioner Richard Roberts is on record
as saying that gardens will not be developed against the will of the
community, but the gardeners fear that without the transfer-to-parks
option the Board may not maintain its resolve. NOSC will be watching
this face-off for hints about future development about community
board supported open space.
FOUR LAND TRUSTS IN FORMATION TO SUPPORT PURCHASED GARDENS
The Trust for Public Land has announced that the community gardens
purchased by their organization will be placed into three separate
land trusts, one each for Bronx and Manhattan, and one combined for
Brooklyn and Queens. The New York Restoration Gardens will be placed
into one citywide land trust. These land trusts are expected to have
boards of trustees that are representative of the communities and the
gardens that they serve. They are expected to be given the authority
to assist gardeners in developing the organizations necessary for
continuity and those facing succession problems. It is not as yet
known whether these organizations will set standards for public
access to the gardens or any other aspect of daily operation.
ARE THE SAVED GARDENS PERMANENT?
Four of the more than one hundred gardens saved from destruction by
private purchase have been removed from the bill of sale by City
Council members who felt that their communities had greater needs
than open space. Those gardens were in Harlem and Jamaica, Queens.
The gardens removed from the sale have been informed of their again
threatened status. It is understood that no other gardens will fall
off the planned sale to NY Restoration and Trust for Public Land. The
bill of sale will, however, have clauses that will require that the
land be returned to the city if the land trusts are unable to utilize
them as green space.
About fifty gardens have thus far been preserved by “transfer to
parks” Garden groups are being assured by GreenThumb that they have
all the substantial legislative protection of park land. Given the
assurances, it would be impossible to reclaim them for development as
long as they are stewarded, and they would be subject to an
“alienation” court case if they are returned to HPD.
NEIGHBORHOOD OPEN SPACE COALITION
356 7th Avenue • NY NY 10001 • 212-352-9330
Northeast Food System Partnership
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