Sunday, March 20, 2011

Liberty Sunset Garden Center closing. Same New York story. Landlord, lease.

[3-21-11- An Anonymous comment on this post counters:

"A comment from the Landlord can be found on their Facebook page. Not exactly the "same old story" when eviction is just being realized after years of not paying rent. The owner of Liberty Sunset never had a lease and was given chance after chance to make good on his promises. The landlord even bartered wood-working contracts totaling over 300k just to keep Liberty Sunset in business. Now the debt owed to the Landlord is over 200k. There comes a point when enough is enough. If they do relocate let's hope their new Landlord isn't forced to subsidize Liberty Green's business for as long as the O'Connells have. Undoubtedly, their patience will not be similar"]

Last year I visited this Red Hook nursery and was deeply tempted by some good looking figs and citrus trees. Word on the gardening grapevine is that all stock has to go and will be deeply discounted, up to 50% off. Many ceramic, terra cotta and wooden planters and containers, tropical plants (being overwintered indoors - including giant brugmansias), fruit trees, vines, perennials, succulents.

Sandor Gubis, the bearlike Hungarian owner, is said to be looking for a new site. He has operated as a contractor from this address for over 20 years, taking his love of plants from hobby to business in 2006.

In summer the garden center is - was - a jungle-thick oasis on a little bay in Red Hook; a sprawling garden and park in its own right. It backs onto Lynden Miller's little waterfront park - to which it grants access at one end - one of my favourite, hidden picnic spots in New York that has small benches fitting two exactly, facing the water, the small, grubby waves, the rocks, the water taxis, the gantries across the water in Jersey. 

I'll visit today to find out more.

The Red Hook, Brooklyn address is 204 Van Dyke Street (next to Steve's Key Lime Pie, so stock up there, too). But also accessed via 258 Conover Street, kitty corner from Fairway.

Tel. 718 - 858-3400

The website is already offline.

* Update after visiting: Don't try the phone number - the phones have been cut off. The story is not as simple as it sounded. I was not able to speak to the owner, but it seems business has been very bad. Bills have not been paid. "Everything is half price," said the lady helping me. "Even me."

All plant stock will be moved out by March 31st, and at the moment, although nothing states as much in bold print, the entire stock of the nursery is 50% off. This is a firesale and there are some good things to be had.

I bought a beautiful raspberry plant, below, with six long canes for $15. That is the going rate for a small perennial in this town. I wish I had space for six, and one does not make that much sense on the roof farm, but I have always wanted to grow raspberries. I may return.

There are figs, citrus, roses, blackberries, more raspberries, kiwi vines, many hardy trees, like magnolias, birches and maples, and a lot else besides. Black bamboo.and a lot of tropicals, which are not my thing, but here are clearly a subject of passion.

This is a very good time to go and buy plants, pots, soil, organic fertilizer - all selling at half their retail value. Not a happy time, but useful for a gardener on a tight budget.

Take CASH*. No phone lines means no credit cards. And be prepared to wait, and to show yourself around. One salesperson had to deal with all the customers and it took time.

Addendum: The O'Connell Organization's statement, per their Facebook discussion:
Mr. Gubis has had over a year to downsize and implement an exit strategy. We could have pursued eviction long ago but instead had countless meetings and handshakes and came to many agreements which were not fulfilled. We had no choice but to exhaust all legal options because we were forced into that position. After not being reimbursed for use of about 25,000 square feet of our property for over a year now we have come to the conclusion that this may never end if we continue to extend Liberty Sunset. They have had more than enough time to relocate and remove their property but instead have focused their efforts on pushing a 'rant' to local media badmouthing us as well as creating this petition. We appreciate their contributions to the community but they have tried to hurt our organization, have not held up their end of many agreements, and have been given more than enough time to relocate. We will take the community's input into consideration through this petition and through any sort of correspondence with our office but please keep in mind that the situation is more complicated than "just extend them a couple of extra months". Our trust has been violated and we have allowed them to operate without reimbursement for over a year, so please, try to take both sides of this unfortunate situation into account.
* The nursery will be open Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th for its final sale.
Update: Liberty Sunset has reopened as Red Hook Urban Garden Center.  
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