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GARDEN PRESERVATION ARCHIVE

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Spacer-2 May 1, 2002

CITY IN TALKS TO RESOLVE FUTURE OF COMMUNITY GARDENS

$4.2 million was paid, including $1.2 million from Bette Midler, to preserve many threatened gardens forever, in May, 1999. While this victory was significant, there are still over 40 gardens on the Lower East Side and over 400 gardens throughout the city, that remain slated for destruction by proposed development plans. The pending restraining order filed by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, in February 2000, is still preventing constuction on many gardens. The NY Times article “City in Talks to End Lawsuit Over Community Gardens” on April 26, 2002, revealed that Mayor Bloomberg is attempting to resolve pending litigation from the previous Giuliani administation. The proposed resolution indicates that “some gardens would be developed and others would not.” As there has been no serious analysis, environmental impact study, nor comprehensive approach to their preservation on a city-wide scale, any rush to a resolution could destroy many valueable gardens.

Proposed Legislation by gardening community aims to address:

* Recognition of community gardening as an existing use of city land.

* Indentifying gardens by their names and as gardens on all reveiw agendas. Community gardens are classified as “vacant lots” and listed by block and lot numbers, which makes tracking the gardens difficult and confusing for both the community and city officials voting on these sites.

* An end to accelerated UDAP land use shortcut for community gardens, and a return to the ULURP land review process. (to give due process for input on the local community level and review of local needs)

* A requirement for environmental impact review before gardens

Thursday, April 25, 2002

SOUTH BRONX GARDEN-CABO ROJO-BULLDOZED

Cabo Rojo a magnificent garden with casita was bulldozed to make way for development. This garden had been moved from its original location and the new site was not protected on Attorney General Eliiot Spitzer’s restraining order.

9/00–

On September 18, 2000 the Appellate Division court dismissed the city’s appeal of the restraining order by Judge Hutner, that temporarily restrains the sale of the gardens pending a determination of the State’s motion to modify a previous injunction.

The decision states “The State (Spitzer) has demonstrated that the imminent sale of the community gardens will result in irreparable harm”

This decision temporarily upholds the injunction. It Does NOT save the gardens forever. The city attorneys can a) make 1 further appeal, b) press for an early court date to try the case, or 3) negotiate for an out of court settlement.

To help: send Attorney General Spitzer a thank you note. Tell him how important it is to us to keep ALL gardens possible. His address is: Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Dept. of Law, 120 Broadway, NY, NY 10271. His fax number is 212-416-6005.

Also call and send letters to local elected officials and city council members to pass intros 743 and 743

2/00-ESPERANZA GARDENS BULLDOZED

New York: Over 100 gardeners and their supporters stood their ground within Esperanza Garden in Manhattan’s East Village (221 E. 7th Street, between Aves B & C) this morning, protesting the City’s demolition of a 22 year old community garden. At 10:30 the NYPD moved in and arrested 31 people, ranging from teenagers to grandmothers. Included among those arrested were nearly a dozen protesters who had locked themselves to “lock boxes” and other unmovable equipment with chains and U-locks. Meanwhile neighborhood supporters yelled, “shame! shame!” and “you are destroying a community garden” from roof tops and fire escapes. Before the last protester was removed, backhoes moved in and by Noon a 22-year community treasure had been leveled to a dirt lot.

State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer asked for an injunction to protect all community gardens against any further action by the city or developers, yet today the City decided to proceed with the bulldozing. Enraged by the City’s underhanded move, the ruling Judge placed a temporary restraining order against the City prohibiting the sale or destruction of 174 “Green Thumb” gardens. While welcome, this move still leaves more than 400 gardens unprotected.

El Jardin de Esperanza was started 22 years ago by the Torres family when Alecia Torres, a neighborhood resident and great grandmother, began clearing the rubble and trash filled lot. The garden was a major community asset in a neighborhood with the least green space per capita of any neighborhood in New York City.

In spite of the fact that there are over 10,000 publicly owned vacant lots in New York City, nearly 600 gardens city-wide remain unprotected and are at risk of being sold to developers. The need for low cost housing is often cited as a reason for destroying gardens. In reality, most new buildings contain very little, if any, low income housing. Developer Donald Cappocia, who plans to build on Esperanza Garden, has already bulldozed 4 community gardens on the Lower East Side, replacing them with “80/20″ housing, where 80% of the units are priced at market value while only 20% are set aside for “low income” housing. After 10 years even this small percentage can climb back up to market rate. (Text by Jennifer Whitburn)

5/99- After years of organizing work, pageants, and community action to preserve the gardens from destruction by proposed development plans, we were able to celebrate the victorious saving of 114 gardens. These gardens slated for public auction by the city were saved just 1 week before the Rites of Spring: Procession to Save Our Gardens this past May, 1999. $4.2 million was paid, including $1.2 million from Bette Midler, to preserve these threatened gardens forever. While this recent victory was significant, there are still over 40 gardens on the Lower East Side and 650 gardens throughout the city, that remain slated for destruction by proposed development plans, aiming to displace the low-income population.

4/99- Most of the 800 community gardens throughout New York City were transferred from Greenthumb / Parks Department program to HPD (Housing Preservation and Development ) last April 1998, placing the gardens under increased threat awaiting development plans for these sites. Current plans to auction 114 gardens this May 13th and 14th, 1999, to real estate speculators has galvanized the growing garden preservation effort. Gardeners and residents throughout New York City have joined together to halt plans to auction and destroy the community gardens, that will have disastrous permanent effect on the quality of life and the ecological and cultural resources these neighborhoods have struggled to create for themselves over the past 25 years.

On Wednesday May 13th, Young Mother’s Garden (Bronx, Block 2923, Lot 26) will be up for auction. The other 113 gardens will be sold on Thursday afternoon. The community gardens of New York City are an ecological treasure and exemplary model of urban improvisation that could become a plan for future cities in the 21st century. However, they exist under the impending threat of destruction by development plans. The gardens provide needed open space, fresh air, a habitat of a diverse species of plants, insects, and birds, as well as outdoor environmental, educational, cultural, healing, spiritual, and community centers. The gardens have also reduced crime by attracting children on the streets and engaging them in a positive life affirming activity. Tensions that exist between the diverse cultural and special interest groups are relieved by uniting people through nature to get to know one another and discover their common interests and goals. As the New York City administration further slashes the budget for social services, it makes little sense to destroy the gardens that are providing millions of dollars worth of services to the community, free of cost to the city.

1/12/98

BULLDOZED: December 31, 1997: Mendez Mural Garden (11th Street Bet. Aves A & B) Angels Garden(11th Street Bet. Aves. B & C) Marias Garden (11th Street Bet. Aves. B & C) 10th BC (Little Puerto Rico Garden) 10th Street Bet. Aves. B & C

SAVED: Two gardens in the Lower East Side, the 6th and B Garden (the one with the famous sculpture) and the 6BC Botanical Garden (next door to Earth Celebrations), have been given “permanent site status” by the Parks Department.

LIKELY TO BE SAVED: Green Oasis Garden (with Gilbert’s Sculpture Garden) and the 9th and C Garden will be given “permanent site status” by Parks if Community Board 3 (the community board of the Lower East Side) approves. Green Oasis goes before the CB3 Housing Committee next week and the full Community Board at its February 24th meeting.

IN LIMBO: These are gardens that the Parks Department has the ability to make certain changes on and enable them to become eligible for “permanent site status.” The Parks Department does not appear to be lobbying particularly hard on their behalf. HPD has jurisdiction over many of these sites, which means that they must pass before CB3 in order to gain protected status.

* Lower East Side People Care Garden, 25 Rutgers Street

* Firemen’s Memorial Garden, 358-64 East 8th Street (HPD)

* Serendipity Garden, 626 East 11th Street

* Campos Garden, 640-44 East 12th Street (HPD)

* Hope Garden, 193 East 2nd Street (HPD)

* 13th Street Community Garden, 520-22 East 13th Street (HPD)

* 11th Street Block Association Garden, 422 East 11th Street

… Albert’s Garden,16-18 East 2nd Street

THREATENED BY NYC PARTNERSHIP: Rodriguez Community Garden, Suffolk between Rivington and Stanton

THREATENED BY DONALD CAPOCCIA’S LUXURY HOUSING PLAN: Bello Amanecer Borincano (117-121 Avenue C) and Jardin de la Esperanza (223-225 East 7th Street)

RELEASED BY COMMUNITY BOARD 3 FOR SALE BY HPD: * 9th Street Casita Garden (between Avenues C & D)

* Holy Mary Mother of God Garden (9th Street between Aves C & D)

* Urban Botanical Society Garden (7th Street between Aves B & C)

* 6th/7th Street Garden (6th Street between Aves B & C).

GARDENS WITH HPD HOLDS FOR DEVELOPMENT:

* Community Residents Association Garden (3rd Street between Aves C & D)

* Earth People Garden (8th Street between Aves B & C)

* Orchard Alley Garden (4th Street betw Aves C & D)

* The Garden Group (6th Street betw Aves C & D)

* East Side Story (276 East 3rd Street)

* All the Way East 4th Street B.A. Garden (350-354 E. 4th)

* Allied Productions/Le Petit Versailles (247 E. 2nd)

* Kenkeleba House (212 E. 3rd)

* East 2nd Street B.A. Garden (236-238 E. 2nd)

* Brisas del Caribe (237 E. 3rd Street)

* The Earth School (600 E. 6th Street)

* 55 Ave C – HDFC (293-297 E. 4th)

* “Fifth Street Slope” Garden Club (626-27 E. 5th)

* Lower East Side Ecology Center (215 E. 7th St.)

* Coradan Evaeden (603 E. 11th St)

* Avenue B B.A. Garden (209 Ave. B)

* Hope Garden (193 E. 2nd)

* East 3rd A/B Block Assn. Garden (194-196 E. 3rd)

… 13th St Community Garden (520-522 E. 13th st.)

LES- COMMUNITY BOARD 3 UPDATE: JANUARY

On January 15, the Housing Committee voted 5 to 4 to give away two more community gardens, this time for the construction of market-rate luxury housing on the corner of 8th Street and Avenue C. The two gardens now under threat — La Esperanza and El Bello Amanecer Borinqueno — are each nearly 20 years old and heavily used by community residents. They host numerous programs for senior citizens, children, the homeless and the hungry, as well as the community at large.

The same developer who bulldozed four Lower East Side community gardens on December 30 — Donald Capoccia — is behind the new luxury housing scheme. The building Capoccia wants to construct would contain 76 apartments, 80% of which would be rented at exorbitant market rates. Despite the urgent need for low-income housing in the Lower East Side, the project would only provide 15 low-income apartments. It would also contain approximately 7000 square feet of retail space, and a large (5000 square feet) facility space for the Gethsemane Garden Baptist Church.

We need housing, we need stores, we need churches. But is THIS development a wise use of City-owned land in an area where there is a scarcity both of green space and of truly affordable housing? Why should we give up our community gardens for a project that offers only scraps for the community — and huge profits for the developer?

The Community Board’s Housing Committee approved the luxury housing despite the UNANIMOUS opposition of the more than 75 community residents at the meeting.

Fortunately, thanks to the recent election of Margarita Lopez, the composition of the Community Board will soon change. There are a number of openings on Community Board 3; interviews will be conducted in February for seats on the board. Interested persons should send a letter of introduction to the office of Margarita Lopez and obtain an application from the Office of the Borough President (212-669-8300; speak to Luther Smith in community affairs).

[If you don't know how the community board system works, go to www.ci.nyc.ny.us/html/cau/html/knowcb.html for the City's official description. Note that community boards are NOT elected or representative bodies; members are appointed.

LAWSUIT: A state appellate judge ruled against the New York City Coalition for the Preservation of Gardens last week. The Coalition, however, has not yet exhausted all appeals on its case, which charges that the City disposed of the gardens without following legally mandated environmental review procedures. You could call the Coalition at (212) 777-7969 for more information.

4/98 On April 24, 1998 Mayor Rudolph Giuliani ordered the cancellation of all the leases on 741 GreenThumb community gardens in all five NYC boroughs –he then requested transfer of the land to the department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD), according to a fax memorandum issued by HPD. This mandate immediately threatens almost all of the nearly 800 community gardens citywide with destruction for development plans. The City Land Committee may approve the transfer as soon as May 8th.

The Mayor is trying to destroy over 90 acres -and perhaps as high as 200 acres – of green space, an area two to four times as large as the 52 acre Brooklyn Botanical Garden. As half of the 776 gardens were already targeted for development in Mayor’s mandate of 1996, the new mandate now targets every garden throughout New York City! This leaves only a handful of non-Green Thumb gardens and the 32 community gardens which have either been transferred into parks already or purchased by land trusts. The immediate transfer of 741 gardens to HPD for housing and commercial development is an outrage, when there are 14,000 truly vacant lots that can be used for housing without targeting the gardens. There are 30,000 community gardeners in New York City and 1/2 million residents who directly benefit and use the gardens.

It makes little sense to destroy the efforts of New York City’s community minded volunteers who transformed the City’s neglect that left a wasteland in the 1970′s, into thriving oases of nature, culture, and positive community life! The City has failed to acknowledge after 20 years, that these gardens have become more than temporary use of vacant land. These gardens have transformed neighborhoods riddled with abandoned buildings and neglected rubble-strewn vacant lots that had become dens of crime, drugs, and toxic waste. People worked together out of their own volunteer initiative to improve their neighborhood, planting trees, flowers and vegetable gardens. Over the past quarter of a century these gardens have also grown into more than needed green open space, they have become living multi-cultural community centers bringing people from diverse backgrounds together in neighborhoods that are often divided racially and culturally. As the City slashes the budget for social services and cultural programs, these gardens are providing millions of dollars worth of services free of cost to the city.

8/97- Update on slated destruction of half of the 776 community gardens throughout New York City

Last fall, as half of the 776 community gardens throughout New York City were threatened by development plans, gardeners from the Lower East Side, the Upper West Side, Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx united and formed The New York City Coalition For The Preservation Gardens. The coalition has mobilized thousands of gardeners, residents, and elected officials to work together and speak out in defense of the gardens and demand their preservation as vital ecological treasures for generations to come. The City has failed to acknowledge that after 20 years, that these gardens have become more than temporary use of vacant land. These gardens have totally transformed neighborhoods riddled with abandoned buildings and neglected rubble-strewn vacant lots that had become dens of crime, drugs, and toxic waste. People worked together out of their own volunteer initiative to improve their neighborhood, clearing away the rubble and planting trees, flowers and vegetable gardens. Over the past quarter of a century these gardens have also grown into more than needed green open space, they have become living multi-cultural community centers bringing people from diverse backgrounds together in neighborhoods that are often divided racially and culturally. As the City slashes the budget for social services and cultural programs, these gardens are providing millions of dollars worth of social services free of cost to the city. It is a fact that many of the gardens in New York City are currently threatened with destruction by city auctions by City-wide Administrative Services and the HPD cross-subsidy plan, which plans to build mostly market-rate luxury development, that will destroy the gardens, as well as displace the low-income population.

The Subcommittee on Permits, Dispositions, and Concessions hearing on August 26, 1997 at City Hall. Over 30 members of the New York City Coalition For The Preservation of Gardens, representing community gardens in Harlem, the Lower East Side, Upper West Side, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, attended and testified in opposition to item #1430 and item #038098. No one realized at the hearing, however, that the agenda included other gardens in the Bronx and Brooklyn. Even with our presence, and Council Member Tom Duane’s further questioning of the HPD representative about the lots on the agenda, and his attempts to distinguish which items were in fact gardens, these gardens were voted to be demolished, yet again because no one in that room identified them as gardens.

The practice of only listing the lots by block and lot for efficiency purposes is only efficient to mislead all those who are trying to represent the people of New York City and understand what they are voting on. The result of this process is meaningless votes, fraud, deception, and a blatant disregard for the democratic process and the lives of people and neighborhoods in this city. HPD from Greenthumb the information, listing which lots are gardens. Both HPD and Greenthumb should be required to inform the gardeners of these plans and hearings, and to inform the council members who are voting. It was clear at this hearing that the group of people in attendance intended to testify to save the gardens, yet the representative from HPD never identified these other sites on the agenda as gardens, even during Council Member Duane’s questioning on this issue. How can elected officials be voting on the history, future, and lives of people living in these neighborhoods, without knowing what it is they are voting to do.

The practice of not identifying these lots as gardens is the reason these votes have passed, and we urge the City Council to recall all votes pertaining to gardens, until a full review of these items is done with community input, a visit to the gardens, and a full environmental impact study. There has been a lack of a proper and just public review process for the disposition of these gardens for sale and development. Gardeners in all of these neighborhoods were never notified by their local Community boards, city agencies, or developers of their plans. In fact, community boards and city agencies only list the gardens by block and lot numbers, making it difficult for community residents to track their gardens through the review process, and confusing for the community board and City Planning Commission members to comprehend that they are voting to release gardens, and not vacant lots for development. Since 1995, Earth Celebrations, the non-profit environmental art organization on the Lower East Side that initiated the formation of the coalition, has had to decipher community board agendas, translating block and lot numbers into names of gardens to be voted on at community board meetings and contact the gardeners who would otherwise never had known the fate of their gardens. In some, cases, there was no public review process on a community level, as specific garden lots were placed into the accelerated UDAP process. The improper and unjust handling of the hearing on August 26th is not the first time. In fact, there has been a lack of a proper and just public review process for the disposition of these gardens for sale and development on all levels of city government in the supposed public review process, from the community board to the City Planning Commission, to the City Council. Gardeners in all of these neighborhoods were never notified by their local community boards, city agencies, or developers of their plans.

On April of 24, 1997, the Land Use Committee and The Subcommittee on Permits, Dispositions, and Concessions voted to approve the destruction of the Mendez Mural Garden on 11th Street between Avenues A & B and the 10th BC Garden for middle/market-rate development plans by HPD. The surprise, once again is that this vote was unanimous, and that many supporters of the gardens, including elected officials and mayoral candidates who appeared at these particular gardens for a rally in support of their preservation, actually voted for their destruction. Gardeners believe that this vote was once again a case where representatives did not know that they were voting to release gardens for development. In fact, Sal Albanese, sent a letter to the coalition stating “the bill referred to the land in question as ‘blighted vacant lots’ not the thriving community gardens that they are. Had the true nature of the legislation been apparent, I would have surely voted against it.” Council Members Tom Duane and Adam Clayton Powell Jr., while supporters of the gardens, also voted to demolish them, because of the misrepresentation of the item. As usual the gardens were only referred to by block and lot numbers, as well as being combined with numerous other items on the agenda. It is obvious that first level of the democratic process does not work and does not represent low-income communities in New York City.

Another example of this unjust public review, is when in September 1995, the local community board #3 on the Lower East Side voted to release 6 magnificent gardens for market rate development. On Monday September 11, 1995 at the Housing/Land Disposition/Zoning/ NYC Housing Authority Committee meeting, CB3, with 5 present members ( 6 absent) voted to approve 9 sites for the Housing Partnership RFQ. The nine sites listed include the Green Oasis & Gilberts Sculpture Garden on 8th Street between Avenues C & D (block: 377 lots: 18, 20, 22, 24,25), the 9th Street & Avenue C Garden (Block: 379 lots: 53-56), the 10th Street Garden between Avenues B & C (block: 393 lots: 28-32, 41-44), 9th Between Avenues C & D Garden (block: 379 lots: 53-56), and the Suffolk Street Garden (block: 349 lots: 1-08, 12, 13) . On September 19th, 1995 the full community board reaffirmed this vote. The vote passed, with garden supporters voting also for the development, because the vote was misrepresented, confusing because again the gardens were listed only by block and lot numbers, and people were told they were voting to release vacant lots, NOT GARDENS. The Community Board vote was never rescinded despite massive protest and an acknowledgment of a mishandling of the vote by the Borough President’s office.

In addition, last spring the coalition organized, and gardeners and local residents appeared at several City Planning Commission hearings regarding the release of numerous gardens on the Lower East Side for development and sale at auction. Many of the gardens concerned were to be sold at auction by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, although these gardens are too small for any development and there were no plans for these lots. The gardens after years of hard work by local residents could thus be sold and turned into a parking lot. It was an outrage, when after gathering hundreds of people over the months to appear at community board meetings in support of the gardens, negotiate with city and elected officials, that the City Planning Commission would finally vote to release gardens that had no development planned for the sites. I was told by a member of the City Planning Commission who was extremely supportive of the gardens, that there was once again confusion during the vote and that some members admitted they did not realize that were voting to release the gardens, they had intended to vote to save. After this unjust vote, we were finally were able to push for a City Council review and possible veto. At that point, Commissioner Diamond agreed to remove several gardens from the auction list.

On April of 24, 1997, the Land Use Committee and The Subcommittee on Permits, Dispositions, and Concessions voted to approve the destruction of the Mendez Mural Garden on 11th street between Avenues A & B and the 10th BC Garden for middle/market-rate development plans by HPD. The surprise, once again is that this vote was unanimous, and that many supporters of the gardens, including elected officials and mayoral candidates who appeared at these particular gardens for a rally in support of their preservation, actually voted for their destruction. Gardeners believe that this vote was once again a case where representatives did not know that they were voting to release gardens for development. In fact, Sal Albanese, sent a letter to the coalition stating “the bill referred to the land in question as ‘blighted vacant lots’ not the thriving community gardens that they are. Had the true nature of the legislation been apparent, I would have surely voted against it.” Council Member Tom Duane and Adam Clayton Powell Jr., while supporters of the gardens all voted to demolish them, because of the misrepresentation of the item. As usual the gardens were only referred to by block and lots numbers, as well as being combined with numerous other items on the agenda. It is obvious that first level of the democratic process does not work and does not represent low-income communities in New York City.

At this point, we ask for an investigation into this public review process and an immediate halt on all plans for gardens sites, because they have not gone through a proper and just public review process, many representatives voting were not aware they were voting to release gardens, and no current environmental impact study was done to assess the loss of the gardens to the community, as well as the viability of low-density middle/market-rate housing in 1997, in these low-income neighborhoods throughout the city.

8/27/97

Update on slated destruction of half of the 776 community gardens throughout New York City

Last fall, as half of the 776 community gardens throughout New York City were threatened by development plans, gardeners from the Lower East Side, the Upper West Side, Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx united and formed The New York City Coalition For The Preservation Gardens. The coalition has mobilized thousands of gardeners, residents, and elected officials to work together and speak out in defense of the gardens and demand their preservation as vital ecological treasures for generations to come.

The City has failed to acknowledge that after 20 years, that these gardens have become more than temporary use of vacant land. These gardens have totally transformed neighborhoods riddled with abandoned buildings and neglected rubble-strewn vacant lots that had become dens of crime, drugs, and toxic waste. People worked together out of their own volunteer initiative to improve their neighborhood, clearing away the rubble and planting trees, flowers and vegetable gardens. Over the past quarter of a century these gardens have also grown into more than needed green open space, they have become living multi-cultural community centers bringing people from diverse backgrounds together in neighborhoods that are often divided racially and culturally. As the City slashes the budget for social services and cultural programs, these gardens are providing millions of dollars worth of social services free of cost to the city.

It is a fact that many of the gardens in New York City are currently threatened with destruction by city auctions by City-wide Administrative Services and the HPD cross-subsidy plan, which plans to build mostly market-rate luxury development, that will destroy the gardens, as well as displace the low-income population.

The Subcommittee on Permits, Dispositions, and Concessions hearing on August 26, 1997 at City Hall. Over 30 members of the New York City Coalition For The Preservation of Gardens, representing community gardens in Harlem, the Lower East Side, Upper West Side, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, attended and testified in opposition to item #1430 and item #038098. No one realized at the hearing, however, that the agenda included other gardens in the Bronx and Brooklyn. Even with our presence, and Council Member Tom Duane’s further questioning of the HPD representative about the lots on the agenda, and his attempts to disinguish which items were in fact gardens, these gardens were voted to be demolished, yet again because no one in that room identified them as gardens!

The practice of only listing the lots by block and lot for efficiency purposes is only efficient to mislead all those who are trying to represent the people of New York City and understand what they are voting on. The result of this process is meaningless votes, fraud, deception, and a blatant disregard for the democratic process and the lives of people and neighborhoods in this city. HPD from Greenthumb the information, listing which lots are gardens. Both HPD and Greenthumb should be required to inform the gardeners of these plans and hearings, and to inform the council members who are voting.

It was clear at this hearing that the group of people in attendance intended to testify to save the gardens, yet the representative from HPD never identified these other sites on the agenda as gardens, even during Council Member Duane’s questioning on this issue. How can elected officials be voting on the history, future, and lives of people living in these neighborhoods, without knowing what it is they are voting to do. This is an outrage! The practice of not identifying these lots as gardens is the reason these votes have passed, and we urge the City Council to recall all votes pertaining to gardens, until a full review of these items is done with community input, a visit to the gardens, and a full environmental impact study.

There has been a lack of a proper and just public review process for the disposition of these gardens for sale and development. Gardeners in all of these neighborhoods were never notified by their local community boards, city agencies, or developers of their plans. In fact, community boards and city agencies only list the gardens by block and lot numbers, making it difficult for community residents to track their gardens through the review process, and confusing for the community board and City Planning Commission members to comprehend that they are voting to release gardens, and not vacant lots for development. Since 1995, Earth Celebrations, the non-profit environmental art organization on the Lower East Side that initiated the formation of the coalition, has had to decipher community board agendas, translating block and lot numbers into names of gardens to be voted on at community board meetings and contact the gardeners who would otherwise never had known the fate of their gardens. In some, cases, there was no public review process on a community level, as specific garden lots were placed into the accelerated UDAP process.

The improper and unjust handling of the hearing on August 26th is not the first time. In fact, there has been a lack of a proper and just public review process for the disposition of these gardens for sale and development on all levels of city government in the supposed public review process, from the community board to the City Planning Commission, to the City Council. Gardeners in all of these neighborhoods were never notified by their local community boards, city agencies, or developers of their plans. On April of 24, 1997, the Land Use Committee and The Subcommittee on Permits, Dispositions, and Concessions voted to approve the destruction of the Mendez Mural Garden on 11th Street between Avenues A & B and the 10th BC Garden for middle/market-rate development plans by HPD. The surprise, once again is that this vote was unanimous, and that many supporters of the gardens, including elected officials and mayoral candidates who appeared at these particular gardens for a rally in support of their preservation, actually voted for their destruction. Gardeners believe that this vote was once again a case where representatives did not know that they were voting to release gardens for development. In fact, Sal Albanese, sent a letter to the coalition stating “the bill referred to the land in question as ‘blighted vacant lots’ not the thriving community gardens that they are. Had the true nature of the legislation been apparent, I would have surely voted against it.” Council Members Tom Duane and Adam Clayton Powell Jr., while supporters of the gardens, also voted to demolish them, because of the misrepresentation of the item. As usual the gardens were only referred to by block and lot numbers, as well as being combined with numerous other items on the agenda. It is obvious that first level of the democratic process does not work and does not represent low-income communities in New York City.

Another example of this unjust public review, is when in September 1995, the local community board #3 on the Lower East Side voted to release 6 magnificent gardens for market rate development. On Monday September 11, 1995 at the Housing/Land Disposition/Zoning/ NYC Housing Authority Committee meeting, CB3, with 5 present members ( 6 absent) voted to approve 9 sites for the Housing Partnership RFQ. The nine sites listed include the Green Oasis & Gilberts Sculpture Garden on 8th Street between Avenues C & D (block: 377 lots: 18, 20, 22, 24,25), the 9th Street & Avenue C Garden (Block: 379 lots: 53-56), the 10th Street Garden between Avenues B & C (block: 393 lots: 28-32, 41-44), 9th Between Avenues C & D Garden (block: 379 lots: 53-56), and the Suffolk Street Garden (block: 349 lots: 1-08, 12, 13) . On September 19th, 1995 the full community board reaffirmed this vote. The vote passed, with garden supporters voting also for the development, because the vote was misrepresented, confusing because again the gardens were listed only by block and lot numbers, and people were told they were voting to release vacant lots, NOT GARDENS. The Community Board vote was never rescinded despite massive protest and an acknowledgment of a mishandling of the vote by the Borough President’s office.

In addition, last spring the coalition organized, and gardeners and local residents appeared at several City Planning Commission hearings regarding the release of numerous gardens on the Lower East Side for development and sale at auction. Many of the gardens concerned were to be sold at auction by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, although these gardens are too small for any development and there were no plans for these lots. The gardens after years of hard work by local residents could thus be sold and turned into a parking lot. It was an outrage, when after gathering hundreds of people over the months to appear at community board meetings in support of the gardens, negotiate with city and elected officials, that the City Planning Commission would finally vote to release gardens that had no development planned for the sites. I was told by a member of the City Planning Commission who was extremely supportive of the gardens, that there was once again confusion during the vote and that some members admitted they did not realize that were voting to release the gardens, they had intended to vote to save. After this unjust vote, we were finally were able to push for a City Council review and possible veto. At that point, Commissioner Diamond agreed to remove several gardens from the auction list.

On April of 24, 1997, the Land Use Committee and The Subcommittee on Permits, Dispositions, and Concessions voted to approve the destruction of the Mendez Mural Garden on 11th street between Avenues A & B and the 10th BC Garden for middle/market-rate development plans by HPD. The surprise, once again is that this vote was unanimous, and that many supporters of the gardens, including elected officials and mayoral candidates who appeared at these particular gardens for a rally in support of their preservation, actually voted for their destruction. Gardeners believe that this vote was once again a case where representatives did not know that they were voting to release gardens for development. In fact, Sal Albanese, sent a letter to the coalition stating “the bill referred to the land in question as ‘blighted vacant lots’ not the thriving community gardens that they are. Had the true nature of the legislation been apparent, I would have surely voted against it.” Council Member Tom Duane and Adam Clayton Powell Jr., while supporters of the gardens all voted to demolish them, because of the misrepresentation of the item. As usual the gardens were only referred to by block and lots numbers, as well as being combined with numerous other items on the agenda. It is obvious that first level of the democratic process does not work and does not represent low-income communities in New York City.

At this point, we ask for an investigation into this public review process and an immediate halt on all plans for gardens sites, because they have not gone through a proper and just public review process, many representatives voting were not aware they were voting to release gardens, and no current environmental impact study was done to assess the loss of the gardens to the community, as well as the viability of low-density middle/market-rate housing in 1997, in these low-income neighborhoods throughout the city.

10/97 -

Thousands of community gardeners and residents protest slated destruction of over 300 community gardens throughout New York City. Gardeners expose corruption & lack of proper public review.

City hall hearings reveal the lack of a proper and just public review process for the disposition of these gardens for sale and development. The gardens:

* have not gone through a proper and just public review process.

* many representatives voting were not aware they were voting to release gardens.

* no notification to gardeners by city agencies or developers of their plans.

* no current environmental impact study was done to assess the loss of the gardens to the community, as well as the viability of low-density middle/market-rate housing in 1997, on these low-income neighborhoods throughout the city.

Gardener’s passionate testimonies describe the process whereby gardens are released, with elected officials unaware that they are voting to release gardens for development. Even elected officials who are garden supporters have voted to destroy them. The lack of democracy and justice is an outrage. Elected officials claim there is no means to rescind a vote, although the presentation of the legislature was a fraud and a blatant act of deception, or at least gross negligence.

In fact, Sal Albanese, stated “the bill referred to the land in question as ‘blighted vacant lots’ not the thriving community gardens that they are. Had the true nature of the legislation been apparent, I would have surely voted against it.” Council member Duane and Adam Clayton Powell Jr., while supporters of the gardens all voted to demolish them, because of the misrepresentation of the item. As usual the gardens were only referred to by block and lots numbers, as well as being combined with numerous other items on the agenda. It is obvious that first level of the democratic process does not work and does not represent low-income communities in New York City.

At this point, the gardeners ask for an investigation into this public review process and an immediate halt on all plans for gardens sites, because they have not gone through a proper and just public review process, many representatives voting were not aware they were voting to release gardens, and no current environmental impact study was done to assess the loss of the gardens to the community, as well as the viability of low-density middle/market-rate housing in 1997, on the Lower East Side, and other low-income neighborhoods throughout the city.

The City has failed to acknowledge that after 20 years, that these gardens have become more than temporary use of vacant land. These gardens have totally transformed neighborhoods riddled with abandoned buildings and neglected rubble-strewn vacant lots that had become dens of crime, drugs, and toxic waste. People worked together out of their own volunteer initiative to improve their neighborhood, clearing away the rubble and planting trees, flowers and vegetable gardens. Over the past quarter of a century these gardens have also grown into more than needed green open space, they have become living multi-cultural community centers bringing people from diverse backgrounds together. As the City slashes the budget for social services and cultural programs, these gardens are providing millions of dollars worth of social services free of cost to the city.

2/97-

It is a fact that many of the gardens in New York City are currently threatened by development plans. Almost all of the 50 gardens on the Lower East Side of New York City, 25 gardens in Harlem and Coney Island, and 20 gardens in Brooklyn and the Bronx are slated to be bulldozed. Many of the 750 community gardens in New York City are now under threat of destruction as the City sells off 11,000 lots. These gardens are now threatened by city auctions and the HPD (cross-subsidy) plan for market- rate (luxury) development, that will destroy the gardens, as well as displace the low-income population of these neighborhoods.

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ENDANGERED GARDENS IMPORTANT NEWS (Lower East Side): LA PLAZA CULTURAL GARDEN IS ENDANGERED BY DEVELOPMENT PLANS. La Plaza Cultural Garden with park and spectacular amphitheater (sw corner of 9th Street & Ave. C), Lower East Side, NYC is being threatened with destruction by proposed plans for a 12 million dollar building. On Tuesday February 25th the community board 3 voted to release La Plaza Cultural Garden that has provided a park, garden, and vital outdoor cultural center and performance space for the community, schools and the neighborhood residents for the past 20 years. The Developer AF&F has proposed to build a building with 60 market rate luxury apartments and 16 affordable apartments. The building will also include10 percent commercial space and 10 percent of space for the Lower East Side Girls Club. It is clear that the developer has given the Girls Club a great deal and used them to provide a guise for the market rate development project that will lead to further displacement of the low-income population, not provide adequate housing for those in need living in the neighborhood, and destroy one of the ecological and cultural landmarks of the Lower East Side. The gardeners, community residents, and local organizations believe that it is unethical for the developer to use the Girls Club, not only as a guise for his market rate development plans, but also to pit one disenfranchised neighborhood group against another. When a vital girls club that is 10% of a building project paves the way for the destruction of a 20 year old garden, cultural and community center this is tragic loss to the spirit of unity and peace in the community. La Plaza Cultural park is one of the city’s ecological treasures and part of the Lower East Side Garden network that is recognized around the world as an exemplary model of ecological balance in the city. This magnificent park was built without public funding by the dedication, creativity and sweat of local residents, gardeners, and artists over the past 20 years. The local residents of the surrounding neighborhood and community-based organizations while believing the girls club is a positive asset to the neighborhood, believe it would better help the neighborhood to move to another location and not destroy what has already been a living cultural and community center, and garden for the past 20 years. To help this garden and get detailed information call: Carolyn Ratcliffe 674-4057

The City Planning Commission on Wednesday, February 19th voted 10 to approve the auction of 9 Lower East Side lots, including 3 gardens, despite Community Board 3′s and the Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger’s recommendation to preserve these gardens and recommend them for a greenthumb lease, and despite the fact that these lots are too small for any building development, and could only be sold for use as a vacant lot or parking lot. The Gardeners and members, supporters, and endorsers of the New York City Coalition for The Preservation of Gardens are outraged by this decision to release these gardens, including Amigos Garden on 3rd Street (between Aves B & C) that has been providing a haven for children to play and connect with nature for the past 20 years. These gardens were instrumental in the reduction of crime and drug trafficking on the block and improving the quality of life of the neighborhood. The blatant disregard of community support to preserve these gardens, including thousands of support letters, organizations endorsements, petitions, testimony by gardeners at City hall, community board and Borough President recommendations, and the recent Save Our Gardens Day Parade & Rally at City Hall on Thursday, February 13th, with 500 gardeners and supporters from Harlem, the Upper West Side, and the Lower East Side in Manhattan, as well as Brooklyn and the Bronx, is unjust. The City Planning Commission decision is a complete disregard for the community and its dedicated residents that have turned City neglect over the past quarter of a century into a thriving oasis providing needed open space, and millions of dollars worth of educational, cultural, environmental, and social services to the community free of cost to the city. These gardens are an exemplary model of urban improvisation that should be recognized as a model urban plan for the 21st century.

SAVE OUR GARDENS DAY RALLY UPDATE: 500 gardeners and supporters from Harlem, the Upper West Side and the Lower East Side in Manhattan, as well as Boerum Hill, Park Slope, and Coney Island, in Brooklyn, and the Bronx, attended the Save Our Gardens Day Rally at City Hall on Thursday February 13th. On this magnificent sunny day, the gardeners young and old marched in procession accompanied by 15-foot wildflower puppets and sparkling garden signs, with flowers, petitions, and letters in support of the gardens to elected and city officials offices. The first stop was 100 Gold Street (HPD) Housing Preservation and Development where security and representatives accepted the flowers and letters. The 2nd stop was the Municipal building where the children gardeners and their parents attempted to deliver the package to Deputy Mayor, Fran Reiters Office. Here a security official refused to accept the flowers and the children began to cry. They then delivered a package the Borough President Ruth Messinger’s Office. Joan Tally accepted the gift and attempted to call Ruth Messinger in a meeting to come a greet the group. Another package was delivered to the secretary for Commissioner William Diamond, of Citywide Administrative Services. At the next stop the delivery group was able to personally deliver the flowers and letters to Joseph Rose of the City Planning Commission at 22 Reade Street. The groups then delivered a package to the City Council at 250 Broadway, which was cordially accepted for Peter Vallone. Finally after a 30 minute wait we were able to deliver a package to a representative at City Hall for Mayor Giuliani, who came out to greet the delivery group, as we were prevented from entering City Hall. The rally followed with speakers including garden representatives from the various neighborhoods, and supporters such as Naoimi Zurcher of New York ReLeaf Region 2 Planning Committee (NY state urban forestry group), as well as elected officials, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. IV (council member from Harlem and Upper West Side), and David Wang from Borough President of Manhattan Ruth Messinger’s office who issued a formal address to the rally and the issue in support of preserving some of the gardens and more thoughtful planning involving community input. We stayed until the sun set in the cold winter night.

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The following gardens were voted to be put up for sale and auction including:

Holy Mary of Mother Garden (block 378 lot 49) 9th Street between Aves C & D was voted to be released for the HPD plan for luxury development.

Urban Botanical Society on 7th St. between Aves B & C (block 377- lot 71)

Sculpture Garden on 6th Street between Avenues B & C (block 389-lots 58-59),

6th/7th Street Garden on 6th St. bet. Aves. B & C on northside (Block 389-lot 55)

6 gardens in Harlem and 9 in Coney Island by January 1997.

27, 53, 108, 129 West 128th Street and 213, 233, 263 West 121st Street are the 6 Harlem gardens slated for destruction. (another 4 gardens are on the HPD list)

Mermaid and Surf Avenue Gardens among 9 gardens in Coney Island.

HPD plan for luxury development of the lower east side is targeted to destroy 16 gardens.

September 1995 gardens CB3 recommended 6 lower east side gardens for HPD luxury development plan The sites listed include:

Green Oasis & Gilberts Sculpture Garden (8th Street between Avenues C & D) (block: 377 lots: 18, 20, 22, 24,25)

9th Street & Avenue C Garden (Block: 379 lots: 53-56)

10th Street Garden between Avenues B & C (block: 393 lots: 28-32, 41-44)

9th Between Avenues C & D Garden (block: 379 lots: 53-56)

Suffolk Street Garden (block: 349 lots: 1-08, 12, 13) .

The HPD luxury development plan is also targeting these 10 lower east side gardens:

6BC Botanical Garden on 6th Street between Avenues B & C (block 387, lots 121-122)

Community Residents Assoc. Garden on 3rd St. between Aves C & D (block 373, lot 56)

Casita Garden on 9th St. Between Aves C & D (block 379, lot 53)

Earth People Garden on 8th St. between Aves B & C (block 391, lots 42-43)

La Plaza Cultural Garden on 9th Street between Avenues C & B (block 391, lots 23 -24)

Orchard Alley Garden on 4th Street between Avenues C & D (block 373, lot 27)

Rodriguez Community Garden on Suffolk St. bet. Rivington & Stanton (block 349, lots 1-8)

The Garden Group on 6th Street between Avenues C & D (block 376, lot 55)

Mendez Mural Garden on 11th Street between Avenues B & C

6th & B Garden (block 4011, lots 31, 33, 35, 37-39) was on this list, but in May 1996 received Permanent Site Status under the Parks Department.

9/96 -

September 1996 4 gardens threatened with sale & HPD luxury development plans:

This fall, on Tuesday, September 1996, another 4 gardens were released for development by the local Community Board despite hundreds of gardeners and community residents speaking on behalf on preserving the gardens. The vote includes:

De Colores Garden put on auction list, but CB3 recommended garden for Greenthumb lease.

(This group is currently pending with the City Planning Commission )

11/96 -

November 1996 Community Board meeting voted to release other gardens for development and sale:

Umbrella Garden on Aves. C bet. 2nd & 3rd Sts. was on list for sale, but CB3 recommended garden for a Greenthumb lease.

Jardin los Amigos on 3rd Street between Avenues B&C (Housing Committee recommended for private sale. Due to our organizing CB3 voted to recommend for a Greenthumb lease.

12/96 -

December 1996 gardens up for sale & development

Magical Children’s Garden on Norfolk and Stanton Streets (block 354, lot 18) (pending w/ CB3)

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1995 -

SOME ACCOMPLISHMENTS (on the Lower East Side):

Saved Alerts Garden (2nd St. bet. Bowery & 2nd Ave.) and Winners Circle Garden (4th St. bet. Aves. B & C) from slated auction on October 19, 1995.

Saved ABC Garden from destruction: (8th St. bet. Aves B & C) April 1995. Organized emergency support and demonstration to stop the destruction by the Roachco Film Co.

CB3 recommended De Colores Garden on 8th Street (bet. Aves B & C) and Amigos Garden on 3rd St. and Umbrella Garden on Avenue C for Greenthumb leases.


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