Thursday, August 12, 2010

Time's Up Response To Benepe's Embarrassing NY Post Community Garden Op-Ed

August 10, 2010 - Community garden supporters outside the Chelsea Recreation Center before Tuesday's hearing. They are fighting for permanent protections for gardens across the city. (Photo by Rebekah McCabe) View video of the hearing here.

Response to Benepe Op-Ed

Time's Up! read your 8/11/10 NY Post Op-Ed with great dismay.  There is a certain Orwellian ‘war is peace’ quality to it that separates fact from reality.  You write that "not a single Parks garden has been lost." You are clearly making a distinction between Green Thumb Park Department protected gardens and others which are not.  A distinction you have chosen to omit and which is also inaccurate because you have also admitted that the Parks Department has been "swapping" protected gardens.  In fact you have "swapped" 36 protected gardens to HPD for development in trade for 22 gardens that could also have been saved.  In addition, over 130 gardens have already been destroyed under the Bloomberg Administration. The fact that Parks Department gardens aren't being developed, is a strong argument why these should be permanently protected by the Parks Department.  Both you and Mayor Bloomberg deny the permanent status granted to hundreds of gardens under the 2002 Preservation Agreement that is set to expire on September 17, 2010, even though the City’s 2002 press release clearly states that these gardens are permanently protected.

Yesterday, we spent all day with citizens of New York City concerned about the new parks rules.  The word “transfer” can be found throughout the document, implying that gardens can be transferred to housing and development.  Moving a garden is no easy matter. Digging up what was cultivated and paid for by volunteers can be heartbreaking. Clearing decades of debris, rebuilding the soil, replanting and/or investing in new plants and garden structures, access to water, reconnecting the community of dedicated volunteers, some of whom are likely to be children and seniors unable to walk the extra distance - each of these issues are significant.

The word PRESERVE is remarkably absent from the document.

While your editorial says, “The city is committed to more robust protections for community gardens” your document does not show us how. Gardeners want permanent protection for the small bits and pieces of green space left in this city.  Vital to our urban future, community gardens combat global warming and support social innovation, cross-cultural understanding and community development.  While you suggest these rules create “more options for alternate sites” there are few vacant lots left in neighborhoods in NYC.  However, there are many empty apartments and commercial buildings.  Once a lot has a building on it, the opportunity to make it a green space is lost for decades.

You state that the reason the gardens can't be designated as permanent parkland is because community members are primarily responsible for the gardens' upkeep and maintenance, not city taxpayers.  However, community members and private groups are already primarily responsible for maintaining hundreds of park properties throughout the city.  Thousands of acres of parks, playgrounds, ballfields and recreation centers - are privately maintained – including Central Park, The Highline, Bryant Park and more. The Bloomberg administration has repeated stated that public private partnerships are a priority of this administration, a fact that Mr. Benepe conveniently omits from his argument.  Why, in the case of community gardeners, does this policy not apply?  And with PlaNYC's promise of a park within 10 minutes-walk of every home, community gardens become even more valuable to the vision of a greater, greener city.

In trying to justify the the City's unwillingness to recognize 198 gardens permanance, you recently attempted to down play the importance of permanent protections.  "It's difficult to call anything permanent, including community gardens.  Even parks are not permanent," you told the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 5, 2010.   While certainly not perfect - as the people in the South Bronx found out when the City allowed the NY Yankees to take 25 acres of parkland to build a stadium - having mapped parkland provides infinitely more protections than not. 

Commissioner Benepe, we need sensible leadership, not spin. Your argument that you are protecting gardens by “transferring” them to alternate sites which do not exist does not pass the test of common sense.

Scrap the rules as proposed, preserve all the community gardens, and create more gardens now.

Times Up! Environmental Group 
August 13, 2010

August 10, 2010 - (Above) Community garden supporters gather across the street from the Chelsea Recreation Center before Tuesday's hearing. (Below)  Inside the hearing opponents of the proposed new rules, and of the hearings themselves, displayed signs. (Photos: Brennan Cavanaugh/Time's Up! Environmental group) 

Protecting gardens and communities
New York Post - August 11, 2010 - By Adrian Benepe 

August 10, 2010

Tree Hugger - August 12, 2010 -  By Matthew McDermott

The indypendent - August 12, 2010 -  By Mary Heglar 
Gardeners say city’s new rules will sow disaster 
The Villager - August 12, 2010 -  By Lesley Sussman

New York Daily News -  August 11th 2010- By Erin Durkin
Wall Street Journal - August 11, 2010 -  By Melanie Grayce West

New York Daily News -  August 10th 2010 - By Sharon Zukin


  1. Mr. Benepe's propensity to lie and dissimulate on every issue could be deemed merely pathological and even humorous if he were not consistently hurting the larger interests of New Yorkers. Here he goes: "First, some background.
    Until 2002, the gardens existed without legal protections, which gave rise to litigation and uncertainty." Some background indeed.
    No mention of the attempt by the Mayor then to auction off outright over 100 gardens, or the hundreds of "protesters" and advocates that demonstrated in various ways with over 100 people getting arrested in numerous actions at public hearings and other events. Of course, when giving some background, Mr. Benepe will be sure to elude and evade, and give you the part he wants.

    For a Parks Commissioner to assert that green open space can be "replaced" by moving it from one location to another is shockingly inconsistent with what the public should demand from an employee. Would he consider moving Belvedere Castle a few blocks away, or to relocate the Camperdown Elm in Prospect Park planted in 1872? Of course, it is not only gardens that he is heedless of, as the Yankee Stadium debacle has shown, that decimated Macombs Dam and John Mullaly parks.

    On the other hand, don't give him any more bad ideas. Already dozens of gardens have been destroyed and bulldozed in flagrant violation of the 2002 agreement, where is Mr. Cuomo?. For example, the garden bulldozed at 110th Street to make way for condominiums under shady cover of a museum, the crookedness of which was exposed here: (
    Most so-called "transfers" cost the City millions because it is developer friends of elected officials and their cronies that get our public land for like a dollar, tax breaks and grants in the millions, to construct monstrous eyesores that raise the rent for all of us. Meanwhile, there is a glut of apartments, with thousands kept empty so the rest of us pay more in rent.

    To assert that he and his agency are actually listening to the public is refuted by his own words in this very same editorial where he says flatly that he won't decide to make the community gardens that need the protection official parkland. How can he say he is listening, then say outright that he won't do what many have asked for?

    Others, aware of the wiles of such a Commissioner an the whims of whomever is the Mayor understand clearly that the only remedy that will ensure the permanent protection of all the gardens is a law by City Council. All NYers ought to contact their respective Council Members and say 'There Oughta Be a Law'!

    Community gardens have sprung up in the finest tradition of NYers taking things into their own hands with minimal resources and rescuing their communities, thereby saving the City money, reducing crime, offering educational opportunities, spaces for seniors to enjoy and for neighbors to get to know each other and strengthen the fabric of our entire City.

    It is time to preserve all the gardens and create more now.

  2. Here, here!

    I'm going to write a letter to my councilwoman today.
    Thankfully, she does stand up and speak out in support of community gardens!

  3. Its no secret Adrian is a pathological lier. No one takes him seriously. His father must be so embarrassed.

  4. And the saddest part Benepe thinks he's getting away with all this. Just because this administration encourages this behavior doesn't mean the public doesn't notice. The Mayor and the City Council may not care about accountably but there are still many people in the public who do. When he's not smirking, he sits there at City Council hearings barely able his hold his head up he's so bored. His contempt is so obvious. He knows very well the City Council won't do anything. Pathetic!

  5. Benepe is an even worse bullshitter that Henry was. Dont trust the Parks Dept people.Ever!

  6. Transparency is sadly lacking in this Mayor's office on all levels. If you don't sit next to Diana Taylor, Bloomberg's girl friend, at a fund raiser (think Mosque - this is how a developer got the Mayor to support the project) then your project, like a park or community garden, has very little chance of being approved. So, we have almost no park lands in Atlantic Yards (Rattner couldn't care less about parks), we have luxury condos inside Brooklyn Bridge Park (despite the community's continuing outrage at this precedent) and the gardens long supported by real people "have no status" with the parks department. It is really incredible. Hitler, anyone?

  7. New York City Community Garden Coalition has made its best effort to understand the proposed rules, and has urged others to analyze them for themselves by posting all relevant documents on our website.

    NYCCGC and its fellow greening advocates are not "pretending" that the proposed rules are weaker than the existing Agreement: they are. This was recently corroborated by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Christopher Amato, who in 2002 served as Assistant Attorney General and lead attorney for the State of New York in the lawsuit filed against the City to halt the proposed sale of over 100 GreenThumb community gardens.

    In a letter of testimony, Amato states that "the proposed regulations differ significantly from the Agreement in two important respects, which could have the effect of significantly diminishing some of the protections currently afforded GreenThumb gardens." He goes on to say that "the proposed regulations appear to eliminate the permanent protection for approximately 198 GreenThumb gardens," and that missing in the new rules is a provision that "all garden sites (provided to gardeners whose GreenThumb garden is subject to sale of development) must be offered either to DPR or a land trust organization for permanent preservation as community gardens or open space."

    Read More:

    Christopher Amato's testomony