Updated 08/10/2010 05:48 PM
Residents Speak Out Against Proposed Rules Governing Community Gardens
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
The city Parks and Recreation Department held a public hearing Tuesday regarding proposed rules to govern community gardens.
In 2002, an agreement between then attorney general Eliot Spitzer and the city preserved hundreds of community gardens on city land across the five boroughs and increased protection from development. Those rules expire next month.
Some community garden organizers now fear that their spaces will be taken over by developers.
"The fear is very real, especially after having fought for this particular garden for the last three to four years," said Peggy Morales, gardener at El Gallo Community Garden. "It was a very, very hard-fought battle in order to keep it here in perpetuity. To learn now that there's a possibility that this garden could be lost to development would really be devastating to this community."
Morales says El Gallo Community Garden on Lexington Avenue and 118th Street not only provides fruits like figs, apples, peaches, and grapes to the community but it also serves as a gathering place.
"We expect recognition for the years we have labored and maintained these important natural assets," said a community gardener.
"As long as a gardening group is in compliance with their license, that license should be automatically renewed," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "Under the current language, the renewal of the license is optional, even for a gardening group that is fully compliant with the rules. The language of the rules should indicate that the license must be renewed as long as the gardening group remains in compliance."
But the Parks Department says some regulations are needed.
"We just want to come up with some rules that will help define the process for gardens, if in the odd circumstance that they might fail, what kind of procedure they have to save them, give other people the opportunity to run them, or, in the very rare circumstance where the city might need to develop the site for some city purpose, what procedures would be in place to allow that to happen," said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.
Benepe also says any communities that lost gardens to development under Mayor Michael Bloomberg have been given new garden space.
About half of the city's 600 community gardens are on city land, with 282 of the city's community gardens under Parks Department jurisdiction. Nineteen others are under the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
Both the Parks Department and HPD say they will review what they heard during Tuesday's hearing as well as written comments.
There's still no word when a final plan will go into effect.