The Weeksville Willow Is No More

The Fateful Day: May 18th 2018, the Willow Comes Down

The last day of life for this 80 year old survivor, a stable reminder of the past through out decades of change for the African American community of Weeksville was Friday, May 18 2018.   The human who cut it down claims to own its home, nominally called 87 Schenectady Avenue by the City of New York.

Our Day In Court

About a dozen garden members had been in court a day early in a futile effort to block the destruction.   The judge threw out our case, a “show cause” order, because we had failed to serve the owner with a “summons and complaint”.  It all seemed like the owner, his lawyer and the judge knew the outcome ahead of time.  We never got a chance to show the judge the beautifully enlarged photos of the tree we had brought to court.

The Weeksville Willow’s demise was as quick as its life was long.   At about 10:30 AM,  an armada of men and machinery arrived at the site.   Among the assembled monsters were a boom truck. a wood chipper, two dumpsters and an especially vicious device designed to cut up the roots of the tree.   The owner apparently knew that willows will keep driving up new trees from their roots for months after the tree is cut down, so he clearly meant to eliminate that possibility.

Our Willow is No Match for Mechanized Might

The crew of about a dozen workers descended on the sleeping giant armed with ropes and chainsaws.   They began disassembling the 80 foot tall willow that had been a beacon of hope for decades for Weeksville, once an independent community of African Americans.   Piece by piece, two men, one with a chain saw, cut limbs off the willow and lowered to other men waiting on the ground.  They in turn hauled the pieces off to a wood chipper which chewed the limbs up and spat them out into a waiting dumpster.  Sections of the trunk too large for the chipper were dropped directly into another dumpster by the boom operator.  Meanwhile more men steered traffic away from the work and closed off the sidewalk lest anyone want to get to close to the destruction.  Local residents reacted with sadness and anger to see the willow coming down.

By 2:30 PM, the willow was only a memory.   I sense even the workmen had some idea of the travesty they were engaged in.  The tree expert told us the willow was rotten from within and would have fallen within a year or two.  They gave us the chipped remains for our garden as mulch.   From ashes to ashes, chips to chips.   They are now helping build up the soil of our remaining garden.  Still in service to our community.  As always.   Long live the Weeksville Willow!

Saddest of all: the lot remains empty!

The saddest thing of all is that now, fully seven months after the willow ceased to exist, its former home is still an empty lot.  The owner, once so eager to build, seems to have had a change of mind or lacks the funds to proceed.  Was all of this haste necessary?  How much longer will this once thriving garden remain a forlorn and empty lot.

A boom truck hauls away some of the last limbs.

 

A willow limb goes into the dumpster

A few leaves to remember you by.

A neighbor weighs in.

It was a good fight.

A view from underneath the willow.

A view of the willow from Imani II.

When the Willow was a place to gather.

The Willow created a great space for youth in Weeksville.

 

What the garden site looked in January 2019

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Save Imani Willow Fundraiser Update

Pareesa Pourian Sketch of Historic Imani Weeping Willow

 

Buy a Ticket and Place An Ad in our Event Booklet

On October 1st, the Imani Gardeners will be hosting a fundraiser at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture at 2 PM.   The event will focus on our struggle to preserve our garden over the past year and celebrate 10 years of gardening at Imani.  Featured will be a video about Saving the Weeping Willow,  a talk about ways we can save land for the community in the future, an art auction, vegetables and medicinals from the garden, music and refreshments.  Tickets for the event will be $20 if you purchase in advance and $25 at the door.  To purchase your ticket click here.

If you can’t make the event and would still like to show your support, or you’d like to honor your favorite charity, to honor a relative or community member or just thank the Imani Gardeners for their work, consider placing an ad in our event booklet.

Ad rates are as follows:
Business card: $50  Up to 12 words
1/4 page: $75  Up to 25 words
1/2 page: $125  Up to 50 words
Full page: $200  Up to 100 words
Inside back cover: $400  Up to 100 words
Inside front cover: $400  Up to 100 words
Back cover: $500  Up to 100 words


Ad prices



After you’ve paid for your ad, send an email to “saveimanitree@gmail.com”, tell us the name on the credit card you used to pay, the size ad you purchased and what you’d like the ad to say, up to number of words allowed for your ad size.

Thanks for supporting Imani Garden and Saving the Weeping Willow.

BSEC is located at 53 Prospect Park West between 1st and 2nd Streets.

Press coverage of Imani Garden

Channel 12

Prospect Heights Patch

Imani Gardeners Kick off Campaign To Save the Weeping Willow

On July 17th, the owner of the middle lot at Imani I had threatened to install fences that would have cut the Imani Garden in two pieces.  In response, garden members called a press conference for 4 PM that day and invited the press to come and witness the destruction of our garden.

What happened instead is that, not only did the owner NOT put up the fences, he offered to sell his lot to anyone interested in buying it.  We are seeking purchasers interested in donating the lot to NYRP, the non-profit gardening group that owns the remaining 2/3’s of Imani Garden.  Warning!  This won’t be cheap, so only wealthy benefactors need apply.  Our estimate: somewhere in the vicinity of $500,000.   Think of who you know that could spare a half a million to help a struggling historic garden in Weeksville.  Read below for more information on Weeksville, NYC’s oldest independent African-American community.   Of course, any donation will be fully tax-deductible.

Continue reading “Save Imani Willow Fundraiser Update”

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Press Release: Imani Garden To Be Cut Asunder Monday July 17th 4 PM

July 16th

For Immediate Release

IMANI GARDEN TO BE CUT ASUNDER

Imani Garden, an historic community garden located in Weeksville, Brooklyn, the oldest independent African-American community in New York City, is about to be cut into two pieces. Like Solomon’s baby, this garden is being cut asunder by the neglect of City and State officials. Unlike the real mother in the Solomon baby saga, neither the City nor the State is stepping in to save the baby.

To witness this destruction, attend our Press Conference on Monday July 17th at 4 PM at 89 Schenectady Avenue, between Dean Street and Pacific Streets

On Monday, the owner of 89 Schenectady Avenue, a lot purchased as a result of the City’s tax lien sale, a lot once owned by a non-profit, will put up fences that will cut an NYRP-owned community garden into two pieces – and lead to the destruction of an iconic willow tree that has graced this low-income community for over 50 years.

Founded as Imani Garden – which means “faith” in Swahili and is the final day of Kwanzaa – by the nearby Our Lady of Charity RC Church, 89 Schenectady Avenue was the subject of a series of tax lien sales in the early 2000’s by the City of New York. This despite the fact that it was owned by a non-profit created by a member of the OLOC church. Under existing procedures, a non-profit has to file annual notices with the State to be removed from the City tax rolls. By placing the burden of proof on often under-funded non-profits, this City-State two step manages to create a vast reservoir of properties for the gaping maws of land speculators.

In the case of Imani, to collect what appears to be less than $15,000 in back taxes, the City created a situation where speculators stand to rake in as much $235,000 or more. Nice deal for them, raw deal for Weeksville.

For more information call Greg Todd at 718-496-5139 or email imanigreg@gmail.com. Also see our website.

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Will The Oil Glut Continue?

 

What if the current cheap oil is replaced with expensive oil?  Will what is happening now in Venezuela be happening in Brooklyn?  Will we be ready?  Will community gardens help ease the transition?

While we may be able to use wind and solar power to replace fossil fuels in our electrical grid, the transportation sector will prove much more difficult.   Forget about the Teslas, Leafs and Volts.  It’s moving freight, not people, that will be the problem.  Ships, airplanes and trucks are not going to be battery powered.  The numbers just don’t work.  And these are the backbones of modern industrialized society, the means by which we get our cheap imported food, cars, shoes, clothes, electronics and just about everything else we consume.

Read this analysis of what’s going on now in the oil industry.  It’s a long article but worth the read.  Thanks to Dan Miner for bringing this to my attention.

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Talk on Selva Negra, Nicaraguan Permaculture Paradise

View of Selva Negra hotel in March 2016 Nicaragua

Come to the Brooklyn Permaculture Meetup Friday May 20th 2016 at 7:00 at the Brooklyn Commons, 388 Atlantic Avenue. We’ll be talking about Greg Todd’s visit to Selva Negra, a permaculture paradise in northern Nicaragua and Andrew’s upcoming Permaculture Design Course.

Hugel culture applied to Selva Negra coffee field
Seaweed being raked out of pond at Selva Negra for use as fertilizer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.meetup.com/Brooklyn-Permaculture-Me…/…/230458795/

Source: green-phoenix-rss

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Why Doesn’t Comptroller Stringer Do His Job?

Rally in front of City Hall to save gardens threatened by HPD

In a recent New York Times article,  New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer “discovers” that the City’s Department of Housing Presevation and Development (HPD) has allowed large parcels of land to sit idle for decades while the City suffers through the worst affordable housing crisis in its history.  Why hasn’t HPD developed housing on these sites the AG wonders.   HPD posits many reasons including lack of appropriate infrastructure, inaccessibility and lack of funds.
Yet while the Comptroller so sanctimoniously pillories HPD, the Department of Finance which he has a statutory mandate to oversee, continues selling City tax liens on vacant land to wealthy investors, folks speculating in one of the hottest real estate markets in the country.  Is there any wonder why the City has no land for developing affordable housing when it no longer takes property for delinquent taxes, as it did up until 1996 when Guiliani began the tax lien sale program?  Since 1996,  the number of City owned lots has shriveled.  Now the City is forced to look at remote and unattractive development sites because it has nothing else left.
Of course, among the parcels sold to investors was 89 Schenectady Avenue, the middle lot of Imani I garden.  (the two side lots are owned by New York Restoration Project, the garden group founded in the late 90’s by Bette Middler).  Previously this lot had been owned by a church affiliated non-profit.  Because the non-profit, located in Weeksville, the 2nd oldest independent African-American community on the East Coast, failed to file the necessary paperwork, the City began taxing the lot, even though the owner was technically tax exempt.  Why is it that the City puts the burden of filing paperwork on the least advantaged, while allowing the most advantaged to reap the benefit?  Is this part of the systemic racism that causes areas like Weeksville to be filled with tax foreclosed properties and now makes them a hotbed of real estate speculation?
This is the story that the Comptroller should be looking into, not HPD’s failure to develop random lots in fringe neighborhoods.
When will Stringer begin doing his job, the job we the people elected him to do?

 

Willow at Imani in mid-summer.
Diverse community residents sitting at picnic table in Imani I

 

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Is Cover Cropping Going Mainstream?

Cover crop in commercial farm

I was astonished to find, in the Business Section of all places, a story about cover cropping in the NY Times today.  Just as permaculturists and organic farmers have known for decades, monocrop farmers are now discovering that cover crops increase yield, improve soil health and reduce loss of topsoil.  The article recounts how the Anson family, and Doug Anson in partiucular, attended an unspecified “seminar” (was it a permaculture talk?!?!) about cover cropping and returned home with “his hair on fire”.  Sound familiar, those of you who have attended a permaculture talk?
He insisted that the family plant at least a small percentage of their acreage with a cover crop that fall.  So in part to humor him and in part out of curiousity, his two brothers agreed to let him plant a cover crop on 1,200 acres, a fraction of the 20,000 acres on the “family farm”.   Incredibly, as predicted,  yields increased by 20-25 bushels per acre!   And less quantitatively but more satisfyingly, the soil felt better, less sandy more granular and lumpy, the way good soil should feel.
The article goes on to note that none other Monsanto is now investing in studies to determine if in fact cover cropping actually has the benefits its promoters say it has.
I’ll never forget one of the opening observations made by Geoff Lawton when I took his 72 hour permaculture in 2007 (sponsored by Green Phoenix Permaculture).  He stated that America’s number one export was not corn, soy or Boeing airliners, but rather top soil.  I’ve often repeated this quote in gatherings and it never fails to draw astonished looks.
Now it seems that commercial agriculture as reported in the Business Section of Americas newspaper of record, is beginning to feel the heat.
Will this new awareness trigger a revolution in agricultural practices?  And more interestingly how will Monsanto and other big ag companies figure out how to subvert cover cropping for their own fun and profit?   Let’s all pay careful attention over the months and years ahead.

Source: green-phoenix-rss

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Fall Work Days at Imani Gardens

Installing new wood frames in Imani II with lots of workers.

Fall is the time we get our garden ready for the coming winter.  It is the time when summer crops such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, okra, beans, squash and other crops that prefer warm weather are dying off and other crops that prefer cooler temperatures such as lettuce, spinach, kale, and mustard are coming into their own.
Accordingly, we spent several weekends preparing our gardens for the change in seasons.  It all began in early October when we planted 7 trays of seedlings in our greenhouse, trays of lettuce, spinach, kale and mustard.  In the greenhouse, temperatures got into the 90s during the day.  Our passive solar system consisting of six 55 gallon drums filled with water on which the seed trays sat helped retain the heat during the nights and keep the greenhouse cooler during the days.  By the end of October, we had seedlings that were a couple of inches high and ready for the rigors of the real world.
On October 18th, Guy D’Angelo, a long time garden supporter and 20+ year organic gardener from Center Moriches Long Island came to teach a class on fall crops.  Guy explained the ways he developed in his garden to extend the growing season using hoop houses and proper crop selection to five eager students.  The group then planted garlic bulbs in one of Imani II’s 13 raised beds and sprinkled rye seeds on another bed as a cover crop.  Finally we put a hoop house over a third bed already planted with spinach seedlings and a cover crop.
On October 22nd, Repair The World, a Jewish philanthropic organization, brought in high school students from a school in Fort Green for a work day.  The 20 or so eager students spread a layer of wood chips over Imani I, learned the secrets of chicken husbandry with our chickens and helped fetch leaves from a nearby park for our compost pile in Imani II.  All of this hard work was rewarded with a BBQ at our outdoor grill.  Much fun and learning for all.
Finally on October 31st,  four permaculture enthusiasts from the permaculture meetups, New York City Permaculture Meetup and  Brooklyn Permaculture Meetup came for a garden tour and work day in the garden.  This group stripped the remaining 10 beds of summer crops and placed the spent plants in a pile at the back of the garden for a future fungi project.  We then spread a thin layer of mulch over the stripped beds and planted the 200+ seedlings from our greenhouse into the beds.  Finally we sprinkled a cover crop seed mixture over the beds.
After all this hard work, Imani Garden is ready for the fall weather, coming for sure in the weeks and months ahead.
Many thanks to all for their hard work and enthusiasm!

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Will You Let Herman Stark Commit Arborside?

 

Willow at Imani in mid-summer.

On September 18th, the City Register published the name of the gentleman who purchased 89 Schenectady Avenue, the middle of three lots that comprise Imani I Garden.  His name is Herman Stark and his address is listed as 199 Lee Avenue Suite 308 Brooklyn NY 11211.  He paid $365,000 for this single 20×100 lot.
As far we can tell, the only reason someone would spend $365,000 for a 2,000 square foot lot would be to build a residential building.  Of course building such a structure would entail cutting down one of the tallest and most beautiful weeping willow trees in Brooklyn.  Is this really what the community wants to happen?  Is it really that important that we have more unaffordable housing in a borough already rated as one of the least affordable in the United States?
Or would we rather have a community garden with a towering willow tree, surrounded by chickens, an aquaponics project, fruit trees and a cob oven?
Let your electeds know your preference.  Scott Stringer, the Comptroller, can be reached at 212-669-2156.  Robert Cornegy the local council member, can be reached at 212-788-7354.  Let them know you’d prefer a willow tree over a housing project!
On September 28th, garden members put up the sign you see in the photo.  We are asking for anyone who knows and cares for Imani Garden to send us an email telling of their experiences there and what they like most about the garden.  We’re asking that you send your comments to “saveimanitree@gmail.com”.  With your permission, we will publish your responses on this website.

Diverse community residents sitting at picnic table in Imani I
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Workshop on Fall Crops and Cover Cropping Oct. 17th

Guy D’Angelo, Wenting Chen plus one other in Imani II with hoop house

On Saturday October 17th at 1 PM, Guy D’Angelo, an organic farmer with 20 years experience growing on a 1/4 acre garden in Center Moriches Long Island, will be discussing fall crops and cover cropping at Imani II. Find out what plants you can grow in the fall in this zone and how to prepare your planting beds. Also learn about the advantages of putting a crop on your planting beds that will protect and enhance the soil over the winter. We will provide a demonstration of how to start your crop, how to cultivate and harvest it. Learn how you can extend the growing season even further with hoop houses over your growing beds.
Imani Garden II is located at 1680 Pacific Street in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. It has 13 raised beds, a 350 gallon water storage tank and a year around polycarbonate greenhouse.
To get there by mass transit, take the A/C or 3/4 trains to Utica Avenue. Walk Utica to Pacific Street and then walk west to Schenectady Avenue. Imani is located at the corner of Schenectady and Pacific Street.

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