Advocates Challenge City Officials to Protect Community Gardens . . . Permanently!

On August 10, Just Food joined hundreds of New York City community gardeners and supporters at a public hearing in Manhattan to give voice to the vital role community gardens provide in city neighborhoods and the need to ensure their permanent protection.

A decade ago, city-owned community gardens were under threat of demolition as part of a Mayor Giuliani-era attempt to sell-off garden land to developers. Gardeners mobilized, and then-State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer helped put a halt to Giuliani’s efforts with the 2002 Community Gardens Agreement, a temporary measure which is now set to expire next month. The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development proposed new rules to replace the expiring agreement, but garden advocates argue that the proposed legislation would weaken protections that existed under the previous agreement and would continue to treat community gardens as temporary spaces.

Gardeners, advocates and elected officials came together to mobilize around the public hearing to ensure the permanent protection of New York City’s community gardens.

“We grow food, flowers, friendships and fun, and these are things worth protecting permanently” said a gardener from Two Coves Community Garden in Long Island City, Queens. City Councilmember Rosie Mendez echoed this call, and highlighted the impact community gardens in her Lower East Side district have on the community. “What we want is a path to permanency,” Mendez said.

“Gardens play a vital role in the everyday lives of everyday people,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. While proposing a detailed list of proposed revisions to the new rules, the Speaker also recognized these rules to be the intermediate step in a longer path to permanency. Long term leases and mapping community gardens as parkland were among the ideas the Speaker supports that move beyond these new rules and would ensure permanent protection of the city’s community gardens.

This message was repeated in testimony provided community gardeners and supporters throughout the day. City officials will now weigh hearing testimony as they consider revisions to the new rule.

The Hearing came nearly a week after a City Hall press conference and rally in support of permanence organized by the NYC Community Garden Coalition (NYCCGC). At the rally, NYCCGC president and Just Food trainer and board member Karen Washington called for New Yorkers to: “work on legislation that will recognize community gardens as the community assets they are, and with protected status. Let us stand united, as community gardeners and urban farmers, raising our shovels and voices. United we grow!”

Click here to read Just Food’s statement at the Hearing, and for an archive of media coverage and photos of the hearing and rallies, as well as updates on the legislation, go to the NYC Community Garden Coalition.

Photos courtesy of Magali Regis.