Keeping the Gardens Green
New York Times
August 2, 2010
First, a little history. In 2002, a lawsuit by then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer of New York was resolved by the Bloomberg administration. That brought an end to what many New Yorkers remember as the garden wars, the Giuliani administration’s effort to sell or develop many community gardens.
When he was mayor, Rudolph Giuliani framed the dispute in ideological terms — a free-market economy versus communism. The deal that resulted from the Spitzer suit takes a more benign and realistic view. It recognizes the value of community gardens and offers some basic protections, under which the gardens have thrived.
That agreement expires next month, and New Yorkers have until Aug. 10 to comment on new rules being proposed by the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The changes are troubling. The new rules talk mostly about transferring gardens — making them available for sale or development — and they remove the section of the 2002 agreement that creates a process for offering gardens to the city. In short, critical safeguards vanish for unprotected community gardens — those not owned by a land trust or the parks department.
We urge the city to reconsider these rules, and we also urge community gardeners to make their voices heard. Everyone who lives near a community garden — and they are scattered all across the boroughs — knows the benefits one brings: green space, recreation, local food, and a strong sense of shared neighborhood. City planners understand that the future of cities depends on greening them. So do the gardeners, hard at work on their plots, and so do all the rest of us who stop to admire the softer, greener geometry of a midsummer garden in the midst of this hard-edged city.