From City Limits:
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.
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.