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RE: RE: NY garden settlement - NYC Land Use 101

  • Subject: RE: [cg] RE: NY garden settlement - NYC Land Use 101
  • From: "Honigman, Adam" Adam.Honigman@Bowne.com
  • Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 16:46:26 -0400

I only wish it were so!  But the city does not see that it has an "open space crisis", only a city with a terrible shortfall of affordable housing ( the builders won't invest in it) and a dearth of office space ( while hundreds of thousands of square feet go unrented in the wake of September 11th.)
Dealing with the city sometimes seems like trying to reason with a 500 pound, evil-tempered four year old with a hammer in its hand. It's only through grass roots political action, involvement with the political process and far too many public meetings and boards that gardeners have any voice whatsoever in the city's land use process. 
Some history: The lots on which most of NYC's community gardens were developed in the 1970s originally had housing and manufacturing sited on them. With the great migration of white ethnic working class folks to the suburbs starting in the late 50's -70's, the epidemic of arson in the '60s & '70s by landlords bailing out, and the loss of close to 2.5 million manufacturing jobs during that time, the city came close to bankruptcy due to the lack of tax revenues. 
At that time, gardeners started up community gardens because they were tired of the physical devastation around them.  The city, which thought we were crazy, even gave us some clean soil and support at that time ( this was also the era that 50 million dollars of Federal money was appropriated for  urban agriculture.) 
Currently, the very attractiveness of these gardens makes them attractive to developers as potential building sites ( a developer sees some tomatoes and he dreams of studios renting for over $2,000 a month.) As gardens improve the neighborhoods around them, the garden sites become yet more attractive.
The sad fact is that the housing and light industrial needs of this city could have been accomodated by using any of the  7,000 -10,000 odd non-garden lots in the city's inventory. In reality, not a single community garden needs to be sacrificed, especially with the large backlog of empty lots that this city possesses.  But, as the gardens are sited on NYC land, the city feels that this is a revenue stream that it needs ( more than ever after 9/11). Throw in developers and local political figures on the make, and you can understand the real estate pressures in this town.
NYC is a place where the words "urban planning" are an oxymoron.  It makes for interesting architecture at times, but most often, we get gluts of office buildings that are often empty. 
It is not a level playing field - its like suddenly being thrust into an American Professional Football game without pads, shoes, helmet or even a basic understanding of the rules and...the other side cheats and is paying off the referee.
But we still have some gardens, and we keep on working on these issues anyway.
Best wishes,
Adam Honigman
-----Original Message-----
From: David Peterson [mailto:dayvidmp@yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 26, 2002 1:02 PM
To: community_garden@mallorn.com
Subject: [cg] RE: NY garden settlement

Another thing to keep in mind, Oliver, is that New York City has thousands of truly vacant lots to develop on, and far too little green space. While the lots have been getting wolfed up by developers in the last few years, I would imagine that they're not so hot on developing many of them in the tanking economy. So they'll sit there, some of them actually former garden sites, and become what they were before the gardens were there - vacant, trash-filled lots. Meanwhile, New York has only begun to think about solving its open space crisis. Every garden that is demolished worsens the problem needlessly. -David

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