Defending Gardens

Locked down to save the gardens (June 2002)

Saving and Defending Gardens

Over the last 20 years, local people in neighborhoods from the South Bronx to the East Village to Bedford-Stuyvesant have turned abandoned, refuse-strewn lots into marvelous gardens, green oases of hope in decaying, often redlined districts.

Along with serving as an outdoor venue, the gardens offer many benefits to the community, ranging from providing a safe play space for children to cleansing the air of toxins and particulates from auto emissions. (It’s no coincidence that car-choked New York City has some of the highest asthma rates in the U.S. ) In community gardens, both children and adults can learn to cultivate a variety of spices and vegetables as they plant seeds and watch them grow. Each garden is a living testament to a community’s industry and resourcefulness. These gardens bring vitality to neighborhoods too often written off by city authorities.

Increasingly, however, the city is selling the gardens to profit-driven developers who destroy them to build apartments and condos that only people making upwards of $100,000 a year can afford. Unfortunately, New York City’s elected officials, rather than addressing the concerns of the citizenry they have sworn to serve, have aided and abetted developers in their takeovers.

The communities and TIME’S UP! believe that New York City “property” belongs to the citizens of New York City, who are entitled to have a voice in determining how that property is used.

TIME’S UP has become ever more diligent in raising the alarm when a garden is slated for demolition, teaming up with the More Gardens Coalition in planning actions and staging “encampments” in gardens to stop bulldozers.

Esperanza Bulldozed

A bulldozer destroys Esperanza Community Garden, 6th Street between Avenues B & C.

The destruction of Esperanza Community Garden helped save over 200 gardens. TIME’S UP! and More Gardens worked on this campaign for over 3 months, literally sleeping in the garden every night, some people attached to lockdowns and sleeping in the giant frog that’s being destroyed in this picture. Over 130 people came out from the community to defend this garden against a hostile invasion by the police. Because of the community outrage and media exposure, a judge ruled a restraining order that no other gardens could be destroyed until further review, which took over 2 years. A lot of the gardens ended up being saved.

We are privileged to work with other fine organizations to defend community gardens.