Garden Preservation
El Jardin de la 10

CONTACT: Sarah Ferguson

LOCATION: 10th Street between Avenues B & C


December 31, 1997

We're sad to report that "Little Puerto Rico" was bulldozed today.


Over the past 8 years, members of the 10th Street and Avenue B Garden have transformed what was once a rubble-strewn, rat-infested lot into a vital green space and cultural center. But on AUGUST 15, the city plans to DEMOLISH the 10th Street Garden , the Chico Mendez Mural Garden on 11th Street and Avenue A, and two smaller gardens in order to build a series of four-story, duplex condominium.

Not only will this development destroy desperately needed open space, but it may jeopardize the safety of neighboring tenements.

The city and the developer, New York City Housing Partnership, claim the condo's, -priced between $120,000 and $160,000 and subsidized with city, state and federal funds-will alleviate the housing crisis. They say these condo's, supposedly slated for middle-income families earning up to $71,000, will help "stabilize" the community.

What is being ignored is the role the gardens have played in stabilizing the community. The 10th Street Garden serves a densely crowded, predominantly Latino block. It provides a safe haven for children to play and neighbors to interact AT NO COST TO THE CITY.

Everyone agrees we need more housing. But why destroy existing gardens when there are other empty vacant lots and abandoned buildings? Why build four-story duplexes with private, 30-foot backyards in an area where most of the tenements are five and six stories? If the city and NYC Partnership are truly concerned about the housing crisis, why not build taller and more densely so as to preserve more land for community space?

NO COMMUNITY INPUT: Gardeners and local residents are outraged that they were given no opportunity to raise their concerns about this project prior to its approval. When the Partnership plan went before Community Board 3 last September, neither the gardeners nor adjacent property owners were notified, and afterwards, many CB 3 members admitted they did not know they were voting to eliminate gardens. The actual plans for the condo's were only presented to the community board AFTER the project had been rushed through the City Council. When the project went before the Council, the gardens were represented as vacant, "blighted" lots.

NO ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STUDY: The land where the 10th Street Garden is permeated by underground streams and was once known as Burnt Mill Pond. In some areas, the water table is as high as 6 feet below the surface. Adjacent property owners are concerned that new development could raise the water table and undermine the foundations of their buildings. (Recent construction on East 8th Street, just two blocks away, caused widespread flooding, cracks, and other structural damage to neighboring tenements.) Yet the City Council, upon Partnership's urging, waived the requirement for an Environmental Impact Study. And Partnership has refused to have its engineers survey adjacent buildings prior to construction to ensure their structural stability. (more)

OTHER GARDENS THREATENED: The proposed destruction of the 10th and 11th Street gardens is part of a larger effort by the Giuliani Administration to auction off as many as half of the over 700 community gardens citywide. On the Lower East Side, NYC Housing Partnership has been invited to build on 22 sites, including up to 9 OTHER GARDENS. Partnership condos are also slated for five, long-standing gardens in Harlem, in an area surrounded by abandoned buildings.

THIS IS CULTURAL CLEAR-CUTTING! Community gardens are expressions of our rich cultural diversity, drawing thousands of visitors and tourists, not to mention revenue-generating film crews. Gardens helped make the East Village the safe, desirable neighborhood it is today. Yet now that the real estate market is surging, they are deemed "expendable." We believe that by subsidizing"middle income" condos, the City only fuels the rapid pace of gentrification and displacement underway on the Lower East Side, while wiping out the vibrant cultural history which the gardens have preserved.. Gardens vs. Housing is a false dichotomy.


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