In the News: The Dirt on Community Gardens

by Anne Schwartz, October, 1999

In May 1999, two non-profit organizations purchased 112 community gardens whose auctioning by the city was imminent. Since then, there had been a period of relative calm. After the sales to The Trust for Public Land and Bette Midler's New York Restoration Project are completed this fall, the groups plan to transfer the gardens to several land trusts, with governing boards of gardeners and community members. Each garden will continue to manage itself, but the trusts will provide a way for gardens to work toether and plan for long-term needs like watering systems.

Meanwhile, about 500 community gardens are still in limbo, subject to development after undergoing a city review process. Eight gardens in Harlem were razed this summer to make way for middle- and low-income housing, including half of Project Harmony's garden on 122nd Street, whose organizers have sued to stop the bulldozers. The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Educaiton Fund also has a lawsuit pending, based on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, to half further garden clearance in the City.

Anne Sounds Off: City Needs a Plan to Keep Gardens

Why doesn't New York City have a plan for protecting community gardens in poor, minority neighborhoods? In the City's most neglected areas, people have gotten together to clear out trash-filled lots and create shady retreats where neighbors can meet, grow food, and provide activities for young people. These gardens are not a luxury. According to areport by The Trust for Public Land, the availability of open space and recreation in the inner city results in lower crime rates, as well as many other tangible benefits. Private organizations shouldn't have to purchase these valuable green spaces from the City in order to preserve them.