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[GreenYes] Please take action to save NYC gardens

Now is a critical time in determining the future of NYC's precious green spaces.  Following is an article to update you on the current situation we are facing, and below are some suggestions from the More Gardens! Coalition.  You can help us take back the land.

Cathy :)


Gardens in Peril
by Cathy Bussewitz
The Indypendent, July 2002, a publication of the NYC IndyMedia Center

Three human-sized ladybugs and four multi-colored butterflies flapped their wings and landed outside the offices of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) on June 10. Joined by puppet-toting Bronx gardeners, one protester climbed a tree hanging signs that read, “Homes and Gardens Go Together,” and “Racial Justice - Make All Gardens Permanent,” while others locked down to trees, chanting for an hour and a half. “More gardens, more trees!  New York City has got to breathe!” they sang before being hauled away on charges of reckless endangerment.

“The HPD employees who came outside were very curious,” said Michael Stipkala, a More Gardens! Coalition activist who grew up in the Midwest, and does service work in the Bronx. “Most were very positive, and a lot of them didn't know how many gardens we might lose, because the process is happening so quickly.”

Indeed, HPD employees are not the only ones in the dark about negotiations happening between HPD lawyers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Eliot Spitzer, the state attorney general who filed a lawsuit that has been protecting the community gardens for two years. A long-time supporter of environmental causes and the gardens, Spitzer filed the suit in May 1999 when the city planned to auction 115 community gardens without an environmental review, leading to the transfer of 113 to New York Restoration, and a temporary restraining order that protected the remaining 400 gardens.

But settlements are going on now, after which the restraining order will be lifted, and the fate of approximately 400 gardens, currently held by HPD, will be determined. “The temporary restraining order is temporary,” said Tom Congdon, policy analyst for the environmental protection bureau of Spitzer's office. “The court ordered the TRO until the case is settled. The city and state have been in negotiations for a while. It's difficult to determine when a settlement will be reached.”

Behind Closed Doors
No one can say for sure what they are discussing. But two proposals are on the table, neither of which please gardeners.

The first, the Mass Transfer Proposal, was proposed by HPD at the request of Mayor Bloomberg. It would settle the question of garden ownership in one swift action. Under this plan, 230 gardens would be handed over to the New York Restoration Project to be indefinitely preserved, and the rest would be bulldozed for development.

HPD reports development plans for 131 gardens so far. However, an unnamed source has told The Indypendent that the number of saved gardens would be reduced to 150, and passed to Green Thumb, preserving their federal funding.

The South Bronx, East Brooklyn and Harlem are believed to be the neighborhoods that would be most effected. Melrose, in the South Bronx, whose population is 96% Latino and African American, holds less than 1/4 acre of green space per person, while Park Slope, Brooklyn, whose population is 28% Latino and African American, has more than 3 acres per person, according to the Council on the Environment of New York City.

It’s unclear how the HPD determines the gardens it wants to develop, especially considering the number of vacant lots in neighborhoods like Melrose that have the most threatened gardens. There are 31 threatened gardens and 180 vacant lots of various shapes and sizes in the area between 151st and 165th Streets, and Courtland and Third Avenues.

Asked why they are developing on gardens in light of this ratio, HPD sends out a pre-written response.  “You can’t build housing on every lot because most are single lots, 15 feet wide, making them uneconomical for affordable housing,” says Carole Abrams, an HPD spokesperson. “Others are one foot wide slivers, have no street access, are not zoned for residential use, or are partly submerged by water.”

But as maps point out, community gardens an d vacant lots are similar not only in size, but also in location.

“There Ought to Be a Law”
A second proposal by the Municipal Arts Society and New Yorkers for Parks would require garden development plans to go through the Uniform Land Use Renewal Process (ULURP), and would provide an opportunity for gardeners to apply for permanent status or, if denied, a two-year lease.  Led by City Councilman Jose Serrano, who represents the Melrose section of the Bronx, the proposal was crafted into Bill #206 commonly called “There Ought to Be a Law.”

Though the bill has yet to go to the committee for approval, it has been well received by council members. Already 21 out of 51 have signed on, many of who are on the committee that would approve the bill’s introduction, according to Moore. 26 are needed for a majority. Sanders, a former gardener, was one of the first to sign on. 


Critics of the bill note that while the proposal may slow down the process, it will leave even Green Thumb gardens vulnerable to development. If this happens, the bill states, the Department of City Planning will work with groups to identify an alternative site.

Gardeners in Melrose know what it’s like to have to “move” a garden. Luis Rodriguez, who maintained the recently bulldozed Cabo Rojo garden, has had to re-create his garden several times. Townhouses with car parks now stand on the site he gardened just a few years ago. A few blocks over, the 17-year old Alvarez Community Garden is bursting with roses, yet at risk of becoming a cul-de-sac.

Gardeners and activists are eager for a city council hearing since they didn’t have a hand in shaping the bill. Such a hearing is unlikely until the end of summer due to ongoing budget negotiations. In the mean time, the city may strike a deal with Spitzer before a hearing ever takes place.

Community gardeners want their rights defined. They also believe that the law should preserve existing gardens and support the creation of new ones. Aresh Javadi and the More Gardens! team are creating a portfolio of garden photos and stories, which they will present to the city. They want to see legislation that takes care of the people who do the city’s greening work.  “The gardeners are the true revolutionaries,” says Javadi, “planting the seeds of revolution one tree at a time. They are taking back the land that was stolen from the indigenous people, and returning it to the community.”


These Phone Calls will change the future of many Community Gardens and the Time with most effect is these critical weeks!  Please call where ever you are

Deal by Mayor and Attorney General and Parks  Being made in a very short time (days from posting)!

*Phone Calls To make - Also ask your friends, family, spiritual leaders, community leaders, schools, etc all to call twice a week (to check on progress)!

1.  Call Mayor Bloomberg at (212) 788-3000.  Tell him we need to make all gardens permanent. HPD by destroying even less than half of the gardens in neighborhoods of color with no green space would represent a racist act. Be the environmental garden mayor of the world! Set an example by keeping All Gardens Permanent and Creating More!

1.5  Call the Parks Department (800) 201-PARK they are a new player only accepting the "active gardens"! Tell them to accept all that HPD is offering (active +non active) as well as to push fiercely for those gardens supposedly under development that HPD is holding back! In the long run it will help the neighborhoods which are environmentally most impacted by the lack of (community) green space!
NYC badly needs all of its green spaces and More!

2. Call Councilmember Serrano (718) 402-6130 Thank him for acting as the garden conscience of the city of New YOrk and ask him to approve the Homes with Gardens project for the Melrose Common Plan and make all 26 community gardens in the Melrose area Permanent and to create More! South. Bronx has the highest Asthma rate in the Nation!

3.  Call Nos Quedamos (718) 585-2323    This is the group that created the Melrose Commons Plan with buildings on every single community gardens.   Ask them to work with gardeners, to make All the 26 community gardens in the Homes with Gardens project Permanent! South Bronx has the highest national Asthma!

4. Call Attorney General Spitzer 212.416.8468 -  Thank him and urge him to make All Gardens Permanent (HPD is holding on many gardens with hundreds of vacant lots around them)  especially in the S. Bronx E Harlem E. NewYork and all the least served areas. Environmental and Racial Justice!

5. Donate money to the More Gardens! Coalition.  -    Call 917-518-9987 or 212-533-8019

6. Become an Intern or a Volunteers to come and help throughout the summer. Gardeners, activists, teachers, students, artists, musicians and you!

7. Seavey Organization, are the developers who can return Cabo Rojo to the community! Tell them so! 212 532 0333

Call 917-518-9987 or 212-533-8019 to speak with 

Its going to be a hot growing summer in NYC with our roots in the community gardens!
Plant the revolution one seed at a time!                           

More Gardens! More Peas!


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