photos: Matthew McDermott
The latest chapter in New York City community garden saga has closed, but the story's not finished: The Bloomberg administration has released revised rules on the gardens, after hundreds of people turned up to protest the regulations as originally proposed in mid-summer. These rules go into effect next month and replace those established in 2002 which had protected the gardens from development through September 17, 2010.The revised rules offer a more explicit pledge to protect the gardens from future development, provided the groups taking care of them were in good standing. Though administered under the city's Green Thumb program as part of the Parks & Rec Dept, each garden is maintained by volunteer staff. Furthermore, should a garden be de facto abandoned and fall into disrepair, the city is required to attempt to find a new group to maintain it.
Speaking at a news conference post-announcement, City Council speaker Christine Quinn touted the revised rules, saying "If we didn't have the best rules, then we had a potential of a state of chaos and threat. Now we have the best rules, so we have a foundation and a sense of calm and protection." (New York Times)
Quinn stated something similar at an August 10 public hearing on the gardens, at the time saying that she fully supported moving the gardens towards a permanently protected status, however this was something that might not be practical immediately and that interim rules were needed to stabilize the situation.
As you can imagine, for community garden activists wanting immediate permanence, and who have been generally distrustful of the Bloomberg administration throughout this process, this didn't sit well.
In a press statement, Time's Up! said,
The same week the Parks Department cut down 56 trees in Lincoln Center to make way for Fashion Week, the City released new garden regulations with little notice, no community support, and no commitment to permanently preserve the community gardens. Despite the thousands who volunteer to keep our community gardens and parks green, and widespread support for preserving these oases, the City's new rules fail to protect them, and in fact expose each and every green space to transfer and development. At a time when city is awash in empty apartments and store fronts we need protect these cherished pockets of nature, preserve them and keep them open to the public. Gardens are crucial to the mental, physical and emotional health of our City's residents and play an ever increasingly important role in our City's environmentally sustainable and socially just future.
Overall the organization noted, "the revised rules are as hostile to garden preservation as the initial draft rules."
NYC's other prominent garden advocacy group, the New York City Community Garden Coalition, apparently got more notice that new rules were coming and took a more sanguine route. NYCCGC noted that they saw the new rules several days in advance of public announcement and added:
From some of the feedback we have gotten so far we know we are moving in the right direction. Many of the changes that the Coalition and its allies advocated for are included in the rules. However, until our board of directors, membership, and lawyers have had time to thoroughly analyze the new riles, we cannot make official comment on them.
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More on NYC Community Gardens:
New Community Garden Rules Offer Weaker Protection Than 2002 Agreement: NY State Lead Attorney
New York Community Garden Supporters Turn Out in Scores for Public Hearing on Their Fate
New York's Community Gardens Lose Protected Status, Threatened With Development Under New Rules