In response to the looming expiration of the Agreement or Settlement all kinds of discussions are taking place. Recently I attended a conference Standing Our Ground sponsored by the New York City Community Gardens Coalition. A lot of promises were made by politicians, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, City Council Parks Chair Melissa Mark-Viverito and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe all were very supportive of preserving the gardens. No one spelled out what that will be. In 2002 before the Settlement was reached I worked along with a group of folks from a coalition of groups supporting community gardeners to come up with legislation that would have created a policy to insure the preservation of existing gardens and spell out the steps necessary to create new gardens in the future. I haven't seen anything that has improved on these words yet:
- New two-year leases for all existing community gardens, and the opportunity for two-year leases for new gardens. (All garden leases were revoked in 1998 when the community gardens were transferred from the Parks Department to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and there is no allowance for the creation of new gardens now.)
- The requirement that all development proposals for community garden sites go through ULURP, rather than the abbreviated UDAP, which does not provide sufficient public input and review.
- Designation of “community gardens” in the IPIS database of all City-owned property and other City documents. (Community gardens are currently listed merely as “vacant lots.”)
- A stronger role for GreenThumb, to ensure its ongoing existence and to enable it to raise private funds to support community gardens.
I think the discussion should start from here. If changes have to be made to the legalese to make this stand up to the City Charter then lets work on it but the spirit and the intent of any community garden policy for New York City should have the same result as what was proposed in 2002....
insure the preservation of existing gardens and spell out the steps necessary to create new gardens in the future.