Monday, August 2, 2010

New York City Community Gardens policy change

Mfinda Kalunga Garden, Lower East Side

If you live in New York, if you garden in a community garden, if you are thinking of joining one or have your eye on an abandoned lot which would be perfect for a small farm, if you have ever visited a community garden here or if you live near one and have feelings about it: listen up, please write a letter or email, or show up:

I learned from a piece in the NYTimes that, come September, the rules concerning community gardens will change. This was news to me. I did a little Googling:

The New York City Community Garden Coalition has links to both the new, proposed rules, per the Department of Parks and Recreation, as well as the old 2002 Memorandum of Agreement, which is expiring.

Liz Christy Garden, The Bowery

I have read the proposed rules on which the Parks Department itself is inviting comment, and I have read the memorandum. It's a bit of a morass, no part of which seemed that alarming to me.

But the NYCCGC has pointed out helpfully that Section 5 on Page 3 in the memorandum is at issue:

"GREENTHUMB GARDENS TO BE OFFERED TO PARKS DEPARTMENT OR LAND TRUSTS FOR PRESERVATION" as proof of present protection not included in the Proposed Rules."

One sticking point: the absence of any guarantee that the gardens in question will be preserved from development. Development means money, developers, buildings. To develop means to grow. Not in this case.

It would mean the end of growing.

6BC, Alphabet City

The New York Times commented vaguely that "members of a city wide gardening group" are encouraging city gardeners and supporters of community gardens to show up at the hearing on August 10th, to make their voices heard. I assume the Times is referring to the New York City Community Garden Coalition. I find it very odd that their article not link to any of the available public information about it all.

The hearing on the new Proposed Rules is on:

Tuesday, August 10th, 11am


Chelsea Recreation Center
430 West 25th Street

6BC, Alphabet City

To have your comments formally received, they must be sent in writing, by the 10th of August to the General Council of the Parks Department:

Mr. Alessandro G. Olivieri
Department of Parks and Recreation
The Arsenal, Central Park
830 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY

... or electronically through NYC RULES at on or before August 10, 2010.

Liz Christy vegetable garden, The Bowery

For some guidance on what the NYCCGC is proposing you say in your comments, read their Letter to Gardeners.

Apparently there was meeting at the BBG on July 28th, about which I didn't know. I would have liked to have been alerted, as a member. Not much outreach, there. I do get all cocktail party invitations...

Summit Street, Red Hook

For more information, also check out Flatbush Gardener's post on the subject, which is exhaustively useful.

So. Why the fuss?

Community gardens are about as quirky as the New Yorkers who live crammed together in this city. Some are aristocrats. Some are fey and haphazard. Others are slovenly. A few are straitlaced, with more rules than others. Many are beautiful. Most are green. Each of them is a pocket of respite in the concrete hum. Each is a green pause in the path of the relentless juggernaut of development. I think that many could be better managed and used. And perhaps this is a good opportunity for self-assessment and improvement in some cases.

But they must not be lost. They are part of the unique character of the city. They are not gentrification, but an outward manifestation of our appetites and our desires, our losses and our memories, our wish for tomorrow and our hope for next year. Gardens bear all these burdens.

If we as garden lovers, gardeners, see-ers of green, are to continue to live together in this city, we need to protect what green we have. And we need that protection in writing.


  1. Well said. Yet I had to pause before commenting, because I'm not sure what to say. It appears that the city is ramping up its smaller "affordable housing" projects (which tend to be privately developed projects on city land -in our neighborhood, it's the Culver El project). We do need more housing. And with that housing (and people) we need more fresh air and open space.

    I read both the 2002 agreement and the proposed new rules, and that was a bit tiring.

    In the 2002 agreement, there is no preservation of any city lot in perpetuity either, so it seems that the garden advocates argument is that they still want permanent status for all lots not purchased by Bette and Co. or other non-profits. The problem appears that they acquiesced to city authority in the old settlement agreement and in working with parks and greenthumb. Have the gardeners lost the right to file lawsuits with that submission? I think so. Lawsuits are the best way to stall development, although a lousy way to ensure perpetuity.

    I think this issue comes down to ordinary people having access to land in a place where the value of real estate is unreal. Housing versus gardening?

  2. Garden's such as you've shown are good for the mind and soul, each one an oasis in the speed of life.

    I wish you luck and hope many will write.

    OK, I live in France but in a previous life I lived in a city and fully appreciate spaces such as these.

    6BC Alphabet city looks beautiful.

  3. Well done, Frank and thank you for converting much data into English.

    Rob, there's a little more about the 6BC here.


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