Rally at City Hall to Stop Taking of Community Gardens

Rally to save public gardens Feb. 2015

On a cold February 10th morning about 100 intrepid gardeners gathered on the steps of City Hall to express their outrage.  It seems that Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the housing arm of New York City, had decided on its own authority to confiscate 17 community gardeners for “affordable housing”.  Without any advance warning to the Parks Department that administers community gardens on City land, the affected City Council members or the community boards, on January 14th HPD issued a Request for Proposals asking developers to express interest in developing housing on 181 City-owned lots.  Buried among these 181 lots, among over 1,000 owned by the City, were 17 community gardens.
The response was swift and furious.  Within 24 hours, Antonio Reynoso, a Council Member from Williamsburgh, issued a letter to the mayor asking that all 17 of the gardens be removed from the list.  By the date of the rally, CMs Robert Cornegie, Rosie Mendez and Stephen Levin had also voiced their concern about the manner in which HPD conducted itself.
The question we have to ask ourselves: what role do gardens play in our communities?  Are communities more than just affordable housing?  In fact, the housing being offered by HPD is not even affordable.  Using something called the Area Median Income (AMI), under the RFP terms, only 1/3 of the units need to be affordable, meaning 2/3 of the units won’t be affordable.  And HPD’s definition of affordable is 80% of the AMI for a family of four.  Given that the AMI (based on regional statistics that include suburban counties) is $88,600, than means that one out of three units must be affordable to a family earning $70,880.  Hello, HPD.  That does not reflect the actual incomes of families in these communities.  These units will be affordable in name only.
Don’t let this mindless land grab go unnoticed.  Sign our petition at Stop the land grab.
For more information on this situation, check out New York City Community Garden Coalition website.
Stay tuned for more developments!

Group shot – pond Imani I
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Imani Under Threat of Demolition

Monica and Tawhid with kids working to clean up Imani II

When we discovered that the vacant lot near Imani I was actually owned by the people, we were overjoyed.  We’d been trying to garden at Imani I for several years but due to a large willow tree, the garden got little light.  By contrast, the vacant lot at 1680 Pacific was just a few feet from Imani I and had no trees at all!
We asked the elected officials who represent us if we could garden there and were initially told no because it was under the jurisdiction of Housing Preservation and Development.  But to our surprise, they offered us a license revokable at will, to use the lot for gardening.
Of course, our mistake was to accept this Faustian bargain, and sure enough just a few short years later, after we had invested over $5,000 in adding planting beds, a water storage tank and a beautiful greenhouse, our 60 plus past or present members are about to be evicted.  Why this lot was given to HPD, and not Parks, is a mystery.  It’s a small corner lot just 30 ‘ x 87 ‘, across from the Weeksville Houses, down the street from a large Sanitation garage and a block from the LIRR elevated train line.  It’s the only garden in a 20 block radius so if you want to garden in the area, we’re it.  It’s noisy and has been vacant for over 30 years.  If there was ever a house on the site, it was a long time ago, and it’s probably been vacant for good reasons.
But rather than fight City Hall, we took the bait and ran.
Now, we have no choice but to fight the decision to turn our garden into housing.  After a meeting of garden members last night, we will be producing a video featuring garden members and inviting local elementary schools to come by for a visit.  If you’e like to find out how you can help, send us an email at “imanigreg@gmail.com”.
The deadline for developers to respond to the City’s request for proposals is February 19th.  We have up until then to pursuade the City to remove our garden from the list.
Any help would be appreciated.

Planting seedlings during work day at Imani II greenhouse
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