New Community Garden Rules

Growing up in the suburbs of Virginia, most of my time outdoors was surrounded by green.  I could walk into the woods and get lost within it from my house if I wanted to. Besides the asphalt that made up the roads, a variety of vegetation covered everything in a majority of the places that I had lived in.  Not surprisingly, I feel like a fish out of the water when I walk through New York City.  To me, this isn’t a ‘concrete jungle’ but rather a ‘concrete desert’ because I don’t see the amount of greenery that normally surrounds me.  However, I’ve discovered certain oases in this concrete desert: community gardens and green spaces.  What is truly striking is that while I took the trees and plants for granted back in Virginia, these gardens and spaces can’t be taken for granted because the community members fought for their existence so that the general public, like myself, can enjoy a little bit of green when the gray becomes overwhelming.

However, these areas may soon be in danger.  New proposed rules in regards to community gardens will come into effect on September 17th, 2010 as the old agreements from 2002 are set to expire.  This came about after former attorney general Eliot Spitzer sued the City in order to preserve community gardens and other small inlet green spaces from development – usually from luxury condominium developers. Before this time, a struggle existed between developers and community leaders which revolved around the use of unused properties around communities.  The agreement in 2002 gave a temporary victory for community leaders, but the new rules may cause tensions to rise again.

The problem with the new, permanent rules is that they don’t include any preservation clauses.  What this means is that city developers may take the property in which the community gardens are on and develop them, though city officials have stated that there have been no plans so far to develop these spaces.  However, there have been conflicts in the past between developers and community garden organizers where existing community gardens were destroyed, such as those in the Lower East Side like the Chico Mendez Mural Garden.

Organizations, proponents of community gardens, and community leaders are stepping up awareness campaigns in light of the new rules.  One such organization, Time’s Up, organized a bicycle rally on July 29th, chanting “the developers are coming” and dressing up as eighteenth century patriots to warn community members, especially ones who had community gardens.

The City had opened a section under the NYC Rules website in which members of the community were allowed to comment on the rules.  The deadline for comments was August 10th.

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