2010-11-29 Statement for Oversight Hearing on Community Gardens


Press Contacts:
Benjamin Shepard 917.586.7952; Susan Howard 917.207.6738; press@times-up.org


Any plans for a green NYC, must include passing a law that preserves, supports and creates more community gardens.

New York, NY (November 29, 2010) – The mobilization for the community gardens this summer shows there is overwhelming support for expanded green space in the city. And when needed, people will organize. While we are proud that the city responded to the work of activists citywide to preserve the gardens, we need a law. Until there is a law passed and gardens are mapped as parkland, garden supporters will remain suspect of the city’s intentions. For example, we noted that in her Food Works speech last week, speaker Quinn spoke of several pieces of pending “green” legislation – the passage of which she is guaranteeing. Yet when she talked about the community gardens – it was clear that there is NO legislation pending before the City Council that would make the gardens permanent – just talk about support – but no real legislative action.

As of today, we are losing lots and lots of gardens. We’ve lost 350 since 1999 and a lot more than that over the decades. In 1980, the city had 1400 gardens. Today, there are only 300 community gardens preserved in parks. The few remaining under other agencies are in imminent danger of being bulldozed. Additionally the Parks Department has been in the practice of “swapping” these preserved gardens, moving gardens out of parks to be bulldozed for housing. This practice must stop. Many of these swapped gardens are still green spaces and must be preserved. We oppose the loss of these spaces. And Astro Turf and cement pocket parks don’t count (and in fact do more harm than good).

We are concerned about the lack of commitment to support, preserve, or create new green spaces. The social rate of return for community gardens in terms of quality life, property values, increased civic participation, food security, green space, global warming should help make preserving and creating more gardens a priority for the city. Any discussion of PlanNYC should include ways to preserve and create more community gardens to ensure green spaces as part of the sustainable future of NYC.

And finally, gardens are not standing in the way of housing. Garden activists support the need for both more gardens and affordable housing. The city could easily reach its benchmarks for truly affordable housing if all properties that went into tax arrears and were taken over by the city, were preserved as low income housing. The City could also review all such properties to indentify land to create community gardens. In sum, ensure gardens are here for our children. Gardens are a crucial part of the solution for our global city’s sustainable future.

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