Thursday, September 16, 2010

No Permanent Protections For Community Gardens Under New NYC Rules

"I’m not seeing preservation here; I’m not seeing permanence here. We need a full commitment from the city to protect these spaces.”  - Benjamin Shepard 

More Gardens, Less Asthma - August 16, 2000. E. 137th Street in the South Bronx, the asthma capital of America. (Photo: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates.  Click image to enlarge) Mural by Harry Bubbins.

Despite the Bloomberg administration's best efforts at presenting a positive resolution, community gardens will not receive permanent protection, and future administrations will be not required to abide by the new rules announced on Monday. The rules, which go into effect next month, will replace the 2002 agreement brokered by then New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.  That agreement offered firm pledges of protection to 198 gardens.  Critics also point out that the Bloomberg administration has not fully honored the so called Spitzer agreement which expires this Friday, September 17.  Community garden, open space, public health activists are pushing to preserve all gardens.

City Wide

To protect the city’s sparse greenery over the years, New Yorkers have climbed trees, wagged freshly picked beets and carrots in the faces of politicians and barricaded themselves inside gardens.

Hoping to avoid another such battle, the Bloomberg administration on Monday released new rules that it framed as a means of preserving the city’s 282 community gardens, according to the New York Times. 

But the response from garden advocates was mixed, and some said they wanted clearer guarantees that the garden lots would not be turned over to developers.

The rules, which go into effect next month, will replace a 2002 agreement with the state attorney general’s office that offered firm pledges of protection to 198 gardens. That agreement expires on Friday.

The new guidelines include a more explicit pledge that gardens would be preserved if the groups running them were in good standing. To qualify, organizers must keep the gardens well maintained, operate for 20 hours each week and open their gardens to the public.

They also require the city to attempt to help find a new group of gardeners if lots are neglected.

Gardeners had urged the Parks and Recreation Department, which has oversight of community gardens, to follow the spirit of the 2002 agreement and grant permanent protection to the lots. But the department said its powers were limited, and it argued that it was necessary to have some leverage in case a garden was not properly maintained.

Several advocates for community gardens, however, said the rules were too vague and left open the possibility that lots could be overtaken.

Bill Di Paola, executive director of Time’s Up!, an environmental organization, said the rules did not reflect the views of gardeners. “The city needs to recognize that the parks and gardens belong to the people,” Mr. Di Paola said.

Benjamin Shepard, a social worker who has volunteered with Time’s Up!, said he was disappointed that the city devoted so much space in the regulations to detailing the process for relocating gardens.

“I’m not seeing preservation here; I’m not seeing permanence here,” Mr. Shepard said. “We need a full commitment from the city to protect these spaces.”

Read More:

Community-Garden Rules Receive a Mixed Reaction

New York Times - September 13, 2010 - By Javier C. Hernandez 

NYC Unveils New Revised Rules on Community Gardens - No Permanent Protection, Yet 

Tree Hugger - September 16, 2010  - By Matthew McDermott 

Community Gardens Threatened Under Proposed NYC Rules - Push To Preserve All Gardens

A Walk In The Park - July 28, 2010 - By Geoffrey Croft

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

A Walk In The Park - August 12, 2010 

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