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6th Street & Avenue B Garden responds

As president of the 6 & B Garden I have to respond to the e-mail posted earlier.

First off I would like to apologize for the garden not being able to accommodate the poster when you were there. I don't wish to discount the disappointment of a person who wished to enter the garden during off hours but a reminder of the realities of running a community garden in New York City is appropriate at this point.

First off, nobody gets paid to run a community garden. This might seem an obvious statement but it is even forgotten by the members of our garden. The people in the garden are volunteers who do all the work which is frequently hard to complete when the public is using the garden. Not opening the garden at times is necessary for the volunteers to do the needed maintenance so the garden can be open to the public. We have to remember that most of the volunteers are hard working people who put time into the garden AFTER working full time jobs. I don't know about other cities, but New York is a very demanding place that has not gotten easier in the 22 years of the garden's existence. We get no money from the city despite the city emblem on the fence. Everything in the garden is the result of very hard volunteer work. We administer the garden democratically with elected officers and monthly members meetings to discuss issues.

Maybe insurance is not problem for community gardens elsewhere, but here in New York City it's a very big problem. Letting people in when hoses are out and wheelbarrows are being used is quite simply a big, big mistake. A nearby garden learned the hard way just a month ago and now they have to be closed until the lawsuit is settled. An insurance claim can ruin a garden. How are volunteers going to pay a large lawsuit award against a community garden?

The city requires all community gardens to be open a minimum of 10 hours a week to the public and the hours be posted. This rule is to ensure that the gardens are open at some point during the week. We post our hours very clearly in two places. Our garden happens to be open well in excess of the minimum requirement but that's at the discretion of individual members who accept the responsibility of monitoring the garden. Our garden puts on nearly a hundred free events during the Spring, Summer and Fall. Music, dance, films, art projects, a Halloween haunted house, all free and open to anyone.

Most of the time our visitors are happy people who enjoy the garden and we enjoy providing an urban oasis for them, however monitoring a garden in Manhattan's Lower East Side is a daunting task at times. We can't tell how many times drunks, drug addicts, drug dealers, mentally unstable individuals and other unfortunates have had to be dealt with in the garden. The partially naked pedophile that I and another garden member had to chase out and get a police officer after was one of the more unpleasant experiences of my life. A sizable minority come in and abuse the garden with trash, destructive behavior and unsupervised children (we blame the parents, not the children). We have people who come in and treat the garden as a free florist and fruit and vegetable stand. Confronting these people can be very disturbing for the average person. Even with these problems we keep the garden open as much as possible.

The garden being closed at times is an unfortunate inconvenience and we apologize but there's no way to keep the garden open all the time. Letting one person in and not the next is the wrong way to go. Having clear open hours and door policies is the only way.

Now if someone came to us and said, "Here's $60,000 a year. Hire people to keep the garden open, just like a city park", believe me, we would do it.

Until then, our hours (and events) are posted at our web site, www. 6bgarden.org . I hope that everyone can come by.

William Hohauser
6 & B Garden,
New York, NY 10009

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