Monday, May 3, 2010

Nick’s Garden 'Violation'

The Parks Department removed a section of snow fence protecting Nick's Garden in McCarren Park last week, but gardener Walid Mokh put it back up. The Parks Department is claiming it did it to reclaim the land (with its fence restore, below) for the general public.  Photo by Bess Adler


A Parks Department official revealed this week that the agency’s removal of a fence around a privately cultivated garden inside McCarren Park last week was the latest salvo in a war to reclaim the land for the public, according to the Brooklyn Paper.

One day after parks workers uprooted a gate surrounding Nick’s Garden, a small garden near Lorimer and Bayard streets, North Brooklyn Parks administrator Stephanie Thayer accused gardeners Walid Mokh and Gina Risica of fencing off an area that is public space and promised additional changes.

“Working in parks, I am well aware of the challenges in caretaking within public space, but privatizing public space is not the answer to the challenge,” Thayer wrote in an e-mail to the pair. “The garden area should be accessible for all park goers to see the beauty that’s been created, and for all to enjoy.”

On April 24, the fence was breached to allow a Boy Scout troop to plant several flowering trees in honor of its centennial. After the gardeners protested, the Scouts retreated, and Mokh hastily restored the garden’s fence.

Mokh and Risica argue that the fence was torn down, not opened for more access, and that the Parks Department’s disruptions could harm flowers in the garden. Both gardeners assert that they are constantly present in the garden and available to any community member who wants to learn more about horticulture.

“We’ve had a really good relationship with the Parks Department,” said Risica. “We’re in the park, we’ve been there forever, and it’s never been put to question that it shouldn’t be a community garden.”

Read More: 

The Brooklyn Paper - May 3, 2010 - BY Aaron Short 

Community Newspaper Group / Aaron Short


  1. The story contains numerous inaccuracies. That the Parks Department was merely reclaiming the land for the public when it tore down the section of snow fence at the west end of the garden from citizens that had "privately" cultivated it, is untrue. While I can understand the Parks point of view that community accessibility is an important goal, it needs to be clear that the fence is merely there to protect the ground plantings from careless foot traffic, and illegal activity. Just yesterday morning we were greeted by the vile remains of human excrement complete with toilet paper inside the garden. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence. The garden has been repeatedly the victim of thefts of plants and tools throughout the years.

    Stepahanie Thayer , Administrator for North Brooklyn Parks - NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation and the Executive Director - Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn (OSA) statement regarding the situation is disingenuous, at best. Most community gardens, and all GreenThumb gardens are closed off and locked up the majority of the week. A GreenThumb is contractually obligated to be open 10 hours a week, according to their website. Red Gate garden exceeds that by 2-3 times in the growing season.

    The Brooklyn Paper article quoted an email from Stephanie Thayer , however it was not addressed to either Walid, Gina or myself; but to other parties perhaps interested in the occurrence of the fence being removed. The first time any one of us garden volunteers read her statement was several days after the fence removing incident, and via a forwarding of that email to me. In fact, even though Ms Thayer has the email addresses and/or phone numbers of the garden volunteers, she nor anyone else, from parks has tried to contact the gardeners directly since the fence was removed.

    The only phone communications with the garden and Ms Thayer were limited to the discussion of new plantings to be put in the garden by the Boy Scouts on Saturday April 24, 2010. The offer was graciously declined, because all of the garden's spring plantings were in place and there are numerous trees already in the garden. There was no discussion of opening of the fence. This incident speaks volumes about the Parks department doing what they want to do, when and however they see fit and without input from the community they serve. This, as you know, is a major issue regarding the PLANYC's Million Tree s NYC program.

    As for the lapse in Red Gate's registration with GreenThumb NYC, that was an oversight and a miscommunication between the woman that used to register the garden who moved overseas, and the current team of volunteers. We are in the process of correcting the oversight with GreenThumb and look forward to utilizing all of the opportunities and requirements that the affiliation both benefits and obligates us to. I hope that the upside of this unfortunate "misunderstanding" between the garden and McCarren Park administrators is that more people will get involved in the community garden.
    -comment continued in next post.

  2. previous comment continued.
    Mr Abramson , the Parks Department spokesperson statements are particularly egregious and contradictory to their actions. Removing the fence without any warning only made the garden vulnerable to destruction.
    That the fact that it is already a community garden runs counter to his statement that “There must be opportunity for the public to become involved if they wish to be a community garden...They are allowed to garden, but there must be public access to it. That was the goal over the weekend.” I can only interpret that as, let's allow this garden to be trampled down , so that the community can have access to space to become a community garden. That this wholly nonsensical.

    Most importantly, for 15 years Red Gate Garden aka Nick's Garden has been open to the local community to enjoy and participate in. To be very clear Red Gate Garden has nothing to do with privatization of public space , and in fact is the opposite. Anyone who has any interaction with the garden knows that it is a public garden that is absolutely open to community input, help, and the garden's enjoyment for anyone that may want to participate.

    Meredith Chesney

  3. Apparently Stephanie Thayer knows little about the parks department. How embarrassing. The vast majority of Green Thumb "community" gardens are kept under lock and key and provide few open hours to the general public. Excluding those without a key is not exactly a good definition of "Community."

    Meanwhile the Bloomberg administration continues to try and sell, lease and privatize our public spaces. Ms. Thayer and Mr. Abramson should at least read the papers to be better informed on these issues. It would be helpful if the two parks department employees quoted in the article were even remotely familiar with the situation at the garden.

    Unlike Green Thumb lots, this garden area is accessible for all park goers, the fence is there, a snow fence mind you, because our elected officials refuse to allocate proper funds to care and protect our public parks.

    In another uneducated statement from the DPR's press office, Phil Abramson says, “There must be opportunity for the public to become involved if they wish to be a community garden. They are allowed to garden, but there must be public access to it. That was the goal over the weekend.”

    As everyone knows, Nick's Garden is open quite frequently and the folks who garden there are always extremely encouraging in trying to get people involved. The idea that this is a private garden is absurd.

    More DPR spin in an apparent attempt to avoid negative publicity. Publicity the agency is unable to escape due to many reasons. Incompetence and arrogance being but a few. Trade marks of this administrations lack of accountability.

    The reporter should have fact checked the parks department statements before publishing them and at the very least allowed those involved the opportunity to respond.

  4. ha, the parks dept person saying "privatization" is not the answer, very rich! gardens are good, whether they are open a few hours or many hours, dont hate on other gardeners, stay focused. i like gardening spaces in big parks, we need more of it. direct action gets the goods, glad they didnt just bow down to the parks employees, they work for us!

  5. Red Gate Garden in McCarren park was previously a Green Thumb Garden. A meritless and punitive restriction has been placed upon our re-registration as a Green Thumb Garden. There are many resources that both provide the garden and the community with organized experienced leadership, stewardship, and outreach. (Not to mention dirt, trees, tools, Port-O-Potties, etc.) Shame on the entities that have effectively obstructed our affiliation as a Green Thumb again. Please call OSA, Stephanie Thayer, Thomas Ching, and Green Thumb on our behalf. MOSTLY, GET INVOLVED and enjoy and support Red Gate Community Garden as either a volunteer gardener or a steward.