Community Garden Update: Good News for the City's Green Spaces

JULY 19, 2011

The fate of the city’s beloved community gardens was high on the worry list of neighborhood groups and garden activists; a land transfer agreement last month brought celebration and a sigh of relief.

The country’s largest network of community gardens (32 Manhattan and Bronx gardens covering 8 acres of land valued at $7 million) has, as of June 28, been deeded by the New York City Trust for Public Land (TPL) to local land trust organizations including the Manhattan and Bronx Land Trusts, with more to be turned over to the Brooklyn-Queens Land Trust later this year. TPL has invested more than $4 million in improvements to the gardens, which cover eight acres and are worth more than $7 million.

The garden-friendly solution ends nearly a year filled with concern and trepidation for those who care for the city’s green spaces. A 1999 agreement with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s administration allowed TPL to buy 69 community gardens for $3 million in a city auction, saving them from destruction. A subsequent 2002 settlement negotiated by the state attorney general’s office offered a pledge of protection and gave the gardeners significant legal rights, but it expired in September of 2010. Gardeners asked for permanent protection in keeping with the 2002 pledge, but the Parks Department, which has oversight of the gardens, said its powers were limited. A new pledge by the mayor—intended to replace the expired agreements—was met with some skepticism. The rules seemed too vague and left too many negative possibilities open (NY Times). The latest news—that the municipal land will preserved and kept in local hands—represents a true best-case scenario, leaving the future open for the community gardens to grow.