West 104th Street Garden

December 16, 2009

Gardens at Risk…

Filed under: News — by west104garden @ 8:50 am

> From: lucille_mv@yahoo.com
> To: ;
> Subject: Fw: [tb-cybergardens]: Gardens at Risk…
> Date: Tue, 15 Dec 2009 17:32:30 -0500
>
> F.Y.I. : This is but one reason holding Public Events in the
> Garden is of prime importance. // LM
>
> Original Message
>
> Sent: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 5:00 PM
> Subject: Gardens at Risk…
>
> >
> >
> > http://www.citylimits.org/content/articles/viewarticle.cfm?article_id=3848
> > http://www.brownstoner.com/
> >
> > City Limits WEEKLY #712
> > December 14, 2009
> >
> > NO WINTER HIBERNATION FOR GARDEN ACTIVISTS
> > By Jennifer Brookland
> >
> > Advocates, electeds and city officials are busy devising the next
> > best step for preserving some neighborhood oases.
> >
> > With the termination looming next year of a legal agreement
> > protecting community gardens across New York City, gardeners are
> > working to formulate strategies for how to ensure that
> > neighborhood green spots continue to flourish.
> > They’re eager to avoid the pain of uprooting suffered by
> > gardeners like Tom Goodridge, who helped to create a garden at
> > P.S. 76 in Harlem in the early 90s. Dubbed the Garden of Love, it
> > replaced a trash-strewn vacant lot in the kind of transformation
> > being repeated in hundreds of other spaces across the city. But
> > on Nov. 2, 1998, bulldozers plowed without warning through the
> > garden’s fence, flowers and grove of mulberry trees. Along with
> > 40 other newly flattened gardens, it was slated by the city for
> > development into affordable housing.
> >
> > Goodridge and his school community mourned their magical refuge.
> > “I think it’s wrong to raise children without trees to climb and
> > mudpies to make,” he said. Especially when two years after it was
> > razed, all that the city had erected in its place was a sign
> > announcing that affordable housing would be built.
> >
> > Now, a vocal cohort of community gardeners across New York City
> > worries that a similar fate could befall their own sanctuaries. A
> > legal settlement that protects some of the city’s green spaces is
> > set to expire in Sept. 2010, with no new safeguards to take its
> > place.
> >
> > That has advocates debating issues like whether new City Council
> > legislation would be the best path toward longer-term garden
> > preservation – or whether various new routes toward guarding the
> > gardens actually come with more pitfalls than real protection.
> >
> > A small slice of green
> >
> > Community gardens in New York City come in all shapes and sizes,
> > as any observant pedestrian has noticed – but people may not
> > realize that they fall under a variety of jurisdictions, too. Two
> > owners of garden land are the Department of Parks and Recreation
> > and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and
> > it is 51 lots owned by HPD – 23 of which are being used as
> > gardens, according to department spokeswoman Catie Marshall –
> > that are potentially threatened by the settlement’s sunset in
> > September.
> >
> > There are also some gardens under Department of Transportation
> > jurisdiction that could be slated for development, said Edie
> > Stone, the director of Green Thumb which is a part of the parks
> > department. Community gardeners can register their land with
> > GreenThumb – which claims to be the country’s largest
> > municipally-run gardening program – to receive financial and
> > logistical support.
> >
> > By Stone’s calculation, about 11 active gardens across the Bronx,
> > Brooklyn and Manhattan could be directly threatened by
> > development once the settlement expires.
> >
> > Activists view the current stage as largely set by events of
> > former mayor Rudy Giuliani’s era. Giuliani’s efforts more than a
> > decade ago to turn garden lots into apartment buildings enraged
> > the gardening community and spurred it to take action. Actress
> > Bette Midler had recently launched the New York Restoration
> > Project, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting green space in the
> > city. The organization joined with the Trust for Public Land, a
> > national land conservation organization, raising $4.2 million to
> > buy up 114 gardens threatened with destruction. At the same time,
> > then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer brought a lawsuit against New
> > York City, claiming it was illegal to auction the gardens. Both
> > sides reached a settlement in 2002, in which Parks would take
> > over the jurisdiction of lots previously owned by HPD, whose goal
> > was to create affordable housing units. The settlement also laid
> > out a public review process whereby any garden the city wanted to
> > take for development had!
> > to be offered a new location.
> >
> > Praising the settlement, Mayor Bloomberg announced, “We are
> > providing permanent protection to hundreds of community gardens
> > throughout New York City.” Yet permanency was not spelled out in
> > the settlement. The Memorandum of Agreement that settled the fate
> > of those gardens carried a term of eight years, until September
> > 2010.
> >
> > The Trust for Public Land pointed out that after that date, the
> > gardens would be left vulnerable again. “No deliberative system
> > governs the fate of the city-owned lots transformed into gardens;
> > no comprehensive plan determines the disposition of the land; no
> > guidelines protect the value these gardens bring to their
> > neighborhoods,” read a report published by the nonprofit.
> >
> > Other gardens were handed over as part of the settlement or
> > afterward to the parks department. While most gardeners view
> > Parks ownership as protection, some fear even that won’t preserve
> > the spaces from future development. Parks maintains it has no
> > plans to develop the gardens.
> >
> > “There’s a persistent fear among a certain bunch of the gardeners
> > that suddenly the parks department would decide to get rid of all
> > the gardens under their jurisdiction,” said Stone. “While that’s
> > theoretically possible, that’s highly unlikely for a thousand
> > reasons.”
> >
> > HPD maintains that expiration of the settlement will not impact
> > the pace of the agency’s ongoing plans for development. “Many of
> > the gardens and former gardens in [our] jurisdiction have already
> > been designated to developers. The others will be designated and
> > developed through our affordable housing programs,” said
> > Marshall.
> >
> > Staking claims
> >
> > With such a small number of gardens possibly threatened, most
> > community gardeners aren’t kept up at night by the thought of the
> > city snatching their plots away. But Hajah Worley, of the New
> > York City Community Gardens Coalition, thinks they should be
> > worried. The Bloomberg administration seems interested in
> > protecting green space, said Worley – but what about mayors to
> > come?
> >
> > “This is a development-oriented city that we live in, so we can’t
> > ever just sit back and think we are safe,” he said.
> >
> > Stone, the director of GreenThumb, acknowledged that nothing in
> > the law prevents the Parks Department from transferring land to
> > another agency, which could then develop as it wished, though she
> > thought that was highly unlikely.
> >
> > “The city is as committed now as it was in 2002 to preserving the
> > gardens,” said Parks Department Assistant Commissioner Jack Linn.
> > “Only a wacko would suggest getting rid of them.”
> >
> > Linn confirmed the Parks Department was committed to preserving
> > community gardens for the long-term. Deciding how best to do that
> > legally is the challenge. “Currently, no such legal protection
> > exists – it would have to be created new for the very first time.
> > So these things become complicated,” he said.
> >
> > Nevertheless, Worley and others don’t want to count on the city’s
> > promises today when it comes to protecting their gardens
> > tomorrow. They’ve approached the attorney general and City
> > Council to pass legislation that would protect the gardens, this
> > time for good.
> >
> > “That’s what we’re aiming at, getting some kind of concrete
> > protection [for] ten years from now when community gardens are
> > looked at as real estate,” said Karen Washington, the coalition’s
> > president. “It’s up for debate. Why can’t we have that
> > conversation? What’s the best way that community gardens can be
> > preserved?”
> >
> > City Council has tried to address that question twice already.
> > Two resolutions were introduced in the past three years. One in
> > 2007 sought to extend the existing settlement by preserving all
> > existing GreenThumb gardens and set aside more parkland, open
> > space and vacant lots for gardens. Another resolution introduced
> > in 2009 called for GreenThumb gardens to be represented on the
> > official New York City map as city parks.
> >
> > Neither bill was voted on, however, and as the Council calendar
> > is cleared for the new year, they won’t be. Several
> > councilmembers are formulating new legislation, slated for
> > introduction in early 2010, aimed at protecting the gardens.
> > “Something will happen over the next few months to bring
> > attention to this matter,” said Bill Murray, legislative aide to
> > Queens Councilman James Gennaro, chairman of the Committee on
> > Environmental Protection. Gennaro’s bill, now being finalized,
> > would call on the mayor and attorney general to extend the 2002
> > memorandum of understanding, Murray said. “People have forgotten
> > about it, but the settlement does expire and something’s got to
> > be done.”
> >
> > But Stone cautions that even protecting the land under the
> > current settlement’s provisions doesn’t necessarily mean
> > protecting gardens. Even if legislation is passed that puts all
> > gardens under park department protection, nothing prevents the
> > department from using that land for other purposes.
> >
> > “The Parks Department could pave over them all and stick a
> > basketball court on it and that would be totally allowed,” she
> > said.
> >
> >
> > This message has been processed by Firetrust Benign.
> >
>

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