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RE: RE: AG settlement is unfair!

  • Subject: RE: RE: [cg] AG settlement is unfair!
  • From: "Honigman, Adam" Adam.Honigman@Bowne.com
  • Date: Mon, 23 Sep 2002 19:47:48 -0400

David, Gwenne et al,
Those of you who were in town for the first day of the ACGA conference last July and attended the City Hall press conference by NYC Parks chair Addabo,probably got an earful from me on the disgraceful scuttling of Intro 206, an albeit imperfect piece of legislation  whose discussion on the floor of the NYC City Council would have brought issues like like the Brownsville gardens into the open for the general public. I worked hard to get that imperfect bill to the floor and pulled in favors from 3 NYC councilpersons to either sponsor or co-sponsor it.  The garden working group that attended adhoc meetings on the bill included representatives from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the ACGA, The Trust for Public Land, The Municipal Arts Society, Green Guerillas and NYC greening employees whose names/organizations I will not mention because they are not supposed to engage in lobbying.
I was at the table because I had three NYC Councilpersons who had committed to me on the bill. We eventually got 26 votes - a majority to pass this bill, but not enough to override a mayoral veto.
The garden settlement, to be frank, sucks an egg.  But the settlement would have been much worse had there not been a history of over 25 years of community garden activism in NYC and if the ACGA had not actively advocated for gardens in NYC, as it does throughout the country.  Often, when many officials and newspapers refused to pay any attention to local gardeners, a letter or message from the ACGA got through. As crappy as the settlement seems to many of us, the mere presence of the ACGA convention in NYC last July helped keep the final settlement from being much, much worse.
When the NYC Council caved in to the mayor in the midst of post 9/11 budget negotiations this June & July (he's the 500 lb gorilla in the room ) the NYC Council chose to put the pending Intro 206 on the table -permanently, calling it "moot."
The NYC Council Parks Committee then chose to write a letter to NYC Corporate Counsel ( the mayor's attorney) & the NY State Attorney General to come up with a settlement. Councilperson Addabo ( Parks Chair) said that there would be hearings afterwards because the garden bill was now moot.  There will be hearings, supposedly after this settlement. I hope they will not be held on days when gardens are being bulldozed....
Again, neither the bill, nor the process that led to it's drafting was perfect. To be honest, many committed and hard-working community garden activists really disliked much in its provisions and the process by which it was drafted.
However an open NYC Council floor discussion BEFORE THE SETTLEMENT would have revealed that the majority of those community gardens slated immediate development because they were further down NYC's Uniform Land Use Review process ( some were even expedited under a process called UDAAP - don't ask me what that acronym means at 7:00pm in the evening) are predominantly in  low income NYC  neighborhoods of color with high asthma rates and an appalling low ratio of parks and green open space for its citizens .
The Classic Comics version of the settlement - 
1) The Parks department gets the opportunity to pick and choose which gardens it wants from a pool of 198 gardens. Green Thumb will administer them until the day when their HUD Urban Development Grant funding dries up. The city can choose to discontinue Green Thumb on a months notice.
2) Those gardens that Parks does not take out of the 198 will offered for purchase by a nonprofit land trust for a “nominal sum.” However, the transfer of these gardens to a non-profit land trust will be subject to the Uniform Land Use Review process - a neighborhood, community board, the local city councilperson, NYC Planning Commission, the borough president, the Land Use committee of the NYC council can either approve or disapprove this transfer. The process is NYC Charter mandated and cannot be avoided. Howver, the $7,000 ULURP fee has been waived for these gardens.
3) From the Sarah Feguson article that Lenny Librizzi forwarded you earlier in the day, "Another 110 city-owned plots still slated for housing and neighborhood facilities will be given new measures to defend themselves during the city’s land use review process. Previously, gardens that went before the City Council for development approval were often listed as “vacant” lots. Now, the city must create a “Garden Review Statement” documenting each garden’s history and membership in Green Thumb, with photos, which will be circulated to community boards, City Council members and the City Planning Commission."
4) Basically, these governmental agencies can say, "Well that's very nice, but we need low-income housing, luxury housing, a bowling alley instead of the garden."
5) A provision of  Intro 206 has been included in the agreement, albeit in weakened form : If a plot is targeted for development, the city must also provide gardeners with a list of nearby available city-owned lots where they might relocate.
The key word here is "might."
6) This part really sucks an egg. From the Attorney General's summary of the agreement:
"38 community gardens on lots slated for development with projects that have already completed (or nearly completed) the City’s land use review process (ULURP) can be sold or developed by the City without further garden review. Of these 38 gardens, 22 are either currently inactive, will be fully or partially preserved as part of the development, or will be relocated to a new site. The development projects will result in the construction of more than 2,000 units of housing. "
7) It is under this paragraph of the settlement that Helen Boykin-Mason's lovely "Fantasy Garden" falls. Last year, the Brownsville "Fantasy Garden" was shamefully rubberstamped for demolition by the NYC Council under the expedited UDAAP process. The term-limited NYC Councilperson for the area refused to meet with Helen Boykin-Mason and the community board of the area ( reputed by some to have "integrity problems", but certifiably anti-garden) put another nail in its coffin. 
The only shot this garden had, at the end of the day, was being saved by a provision in the Attorney General's lawsuit. This did not happen. 
To quote Ms. Boykin:  

"The Mayor and attorney general ageed  [sic] on a proposal that was flawed, as it failed to include certain sections of the city that have a high concentration of people of color. Instead, a decision was made to build MARKET RATE housing on the sites of community gardens which are located in an area that is inundated with vacant lots. The majority of the neighborhood residents have median incomes of less than $30,000.00 per year. Their children have one of the highest rates of asthma and upper respiratory ailments in the city. We are a viable member of society that deserves the same right to open green spaces as any other neighborhood. When the parties sat down to come up with a plan to end the litigation, it should have been a fair and equitable olution. That did not happen. It was a job miserably done. Of course, I did not expect every garden to be saved but not a single one of our gardens were considered worth saving. YOU TELL ME WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? My name is Helen Boykin-Mason and I am a member of Fantasy Garden which is located in Brownsville, Brooklyn."

We have alot of work to do here in NYC.  This settlement has been extremely unsettling.

Please learn from our experience and do better in your communities, if you can.

Adam Honigman

Volunteer, Clinton Community Garden




-----Original Message-----
From: David Peterson [mailto:dayvidmp@yahoo.com]
Sent: Monday, September 23, 2002 4:33 PM
To: Lenny@yahoo.com; community_garden@mallorn.com; Gwenne Hayes-Stewart
Subject: Re: RE: [cg] AG settlement is unfair!

Thank you Lenny for the link, and the mention of a "next battle." I hope things aren't over yet. -David

 Lenny Librizzi wrote:

David, Gwenne,
Other than on the list serves no one is talking about the housing projects that are being
proposed for the garden sites have no income restrictions. So we are not talking about affordable housing here. There
are usually other vacant lots nearby that could be developed instead of the garden. Although the agreement calls for a
review process which includes possible relocation sites for any of the gardens that will be subject to development in the
future, the 30 gardens set for immediate development have no option for alternate sites. Yes, these sites are in housing
programs that are funded and have gone through a review process that did not mention that a garden existed on the
site. Certain neighborhoods that are short on parkland like Brownsville are particularly hard hit. Trying to save the 100+
gardens that haven't been offered preservation and a! re still subject to development in the future is the next battle.
Here is a link to a little more enlightened article by Sarah Ferguson but even she does not mention the market rate type
of housing programs and makes it sound like these are new gardens that never existed before.

9/23/02 3:02:05 PM, Gwenne Hayes-Stewart wrote:

> From: Gwenne Hayes-Stewart
> To: "'David Peterson'" ,
> community_garden@mallorn.com
> Subject:RE: [cg] AG settlement is unfair!
> Date: Mon, 23 Sep 2002 14:02:05 -0500
> It is extremely helpful to hear these other reports. Out here in the
> Midwest, the NY times is our only access to news stories about these
> gardens. Why were these gardens not a part of the new r! eview procedures?
> Were they already too far along in t he process? Gwenne
> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Peterson [mailto:dayvidmp@yahoo.com]
> Sent: Monday, September 23, 2002 1:51 PM
> To: community_garden@mallorn.com
> Subject: [cg] AG settlement is unfair!
> I am glad to hear from Ms. Helen about the flaws in the settlement
> between Spitzer and the City. Someone has to say it. When I saw that
> there was a settlement, and was overjoyed, but then looked to see that
> nearly all of the 17 gardens I worked with last summer in the South
> Bronx, Brownsville and East New York were slated for "immediate
> development" under the New Foundations Home Ownership Program. The
> program is creating market rate housing (the homes will cost upwards of
> $150,000), and this reality has been hidden by the New York Times. These
> beautiful gardens, including Ms. Mason-Boykin's garden, the Over 50
> ga! rden, will now have to make way for expensive houses in neighborhoods
> with tons of vacant lots (I can think of five or six right by Over 50).
> I'm in Austin, Texas, itching with a feeling of injustice and
> powerlessness, and hope that grassroots activists will work with these
> folks, either helping them build new gardens through the relocation
> process or through any means that they have or can improvise, to ensure
> that Ms. Helen and others like her get to keep their beautiful gardens.
> Good luck out there, and remember that every garden destroyed is
> unacceptable. It may be called unavoidable, but we should always remember
> that it is unacceptable.
> In solidarity,
> David Peterson
> Do you Yahoo!?
> New DSL Internet Access from SBC & Yahoo!

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