New York Daily News
July 28, 2010
By Simone Weichselbaum
It’s the green thumb biker buff version of the Boston Tea Party.
Instead of battling the British, two dozen community gardens loyalists will pedal around Manhattan on “horsecycles” Manhattan tonight rallying the cry to keep the spaces safe from developers.
The cyclists’ advocacy group Times Up! has stuck cardboard horse heads on over 20 bikes for their Paul Revere-style night ride from the Generation X Garden on E. 4th Street to Mayor Bloomberg’s townhouse on E. 79th St.
They are protesting the Sept. 17 expiration of the Garden Settlement of 2002, which protected community gardens from real estate developers.
“We are bringing Bloomberg a gift from the gardens, flowers and cucumbers,” said Benjamin Shepard of Times Up!. “He is supposed to make this city green. I hope he will live up to his rhetoric.”
On Aug. 10 Shepard, his flock of bikers, and scores of other plant enthusiasts will pack a public hearing at the Chelsea Recreation Center on W. 25th St. where folks can ask city officials about the fate of nearly 600 gardens citywide.
The flowery drama grew out of a Mayor Koch-era decision allowing New Yorkers to have temporary access to abandoned lots where they could cultivate plant life. The plan never became permanent, pitting gardeners against the city for decades.
The city Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development said it currently watches over 20 working gardens, the Parks Department said it monitors 282. It could not be immediately determined which agency checks on the remaining gardens.
Both HPD and Parks officials said their goal is to keep things the way they are and have no plans to open up the gardens to builders.
“The new community garden rules, now going through a full public process, is intended to protect the gardens when the current temporary agreement ends,” said a Parks Department spokesman in a statement.
But the words are not enough for garden volunteers who said they will keep making noise until the city creates regulations that will keep away bulldozers forever.
“We want all community gardens to become permanent,” said Lower East Side resident Ariane Burgess, who volunteers at the Jardin Del Paraiso garden on E. 5th St., which sits on nearly one acre of land.
“People can feed themselves from the gardens. There is an interaction of different cultures. People lose the sense of agitation from being in the city,” Burgess said.