Save Our Community Gardens!

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On February 10th, 2015, Just Food joined more than 100 community gardeners and supporters on the steps of City Hall to oppose a new housing plan by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) that could potentially destroy 17 thriving community gardens for developers to build "affordable housing."

Organized by the New York City Community Garden Coalition, the rally gave community gardeners and supporters a chance to call on the Mayor to "#dontberudy" by protecting community gardens and supporting truly affordable housing.

“Affordable housing and community gardens are compatible. We advocate for more gardens and more housing,” the NYCCGC stated in a press release. “We do not understand how the selection process came about and why 17 active community gardens were selected as lots to be developed."

Protestors were frustrated to find themselves protesting the destruction of their community gardens once again, having gone through a similar situation in the 1990s when the Giuliani administration began selling off community gardens to developers.

Brenda Thompson-Duchene manages three community gardens in Brownsville, Brooklyn, two of which are listed among the ‘vacant’ or ‘undeveloped’ plots that HPD plans to demolish for affordable housing development. These gardens are over 20 years old and are home to numerous vegetable plots and fruit trees including peach, apple, plum, cherry and fig. The gardens provide classrooms for community members of all ages to learn where their food comes from and how to grow their own. 

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“I want HPD to know that these gardens are significant to the people in their area. We are teaching people how to grow their own food, how to treat their hypertension and diabetes. We are combatting the influx of fast food restaurants into the community,” said Thompson-Duchene.

“It is important that we continue to work with the Mayor, the Parks Department, GreenThumb and HPD so we can create some type of permanency for community gardens and urban farms,” said Greg Anderson, Just Food's Urban Agriculture Manager. “There hasn’t been much room for community engagement in this process so far.”

The lack of community input and transparency in the selection of these sites left the affected gardens and broader communities blindsided.

HPD neglected to consult Thompson-Duchene and her community before adding their gardens to its list of undeveloped plots.

“I don’t think whoever identified these lots really did their homework. If they knew all the good these gardens were doing in the community, they wouldn’t try to take them away,” she said.

Just Food supports the NYCCGC in calling on Mayor de Blasio, "to direct HPD to remove not just these affected community gardens but all community gardens currently in HPD jurisdiction and transfer them to Parks where they will have a measure of protected permanence.”

For more information, please contact Greg Anderson, Urban Agriculture Manager, Just Food: 212.858.9825 and greg@justfood.org.

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