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Ride to Save Community Gardens, and other actions

NYC’s community gardens are in trouble again.

Time’s Up has been on the forefront of saving community gardens in the past from having them be turned over to private development. In 2002, there was a Spitzer Agreement to preserve 500 green spaces (2002 Preservation Agreement) but this is set to expire in September of 2010. More about the details are included in a press release at the end of this posting.

Meanwhile, there has been a call to action to make people aware of the plight of these sacred green spaces in our city. Time’s Up is once again leading the fight.

Here are a number of events to get involved with this week.

Please join us for the events listed below and bring your friends, neighbors, family, co-workers!

1. “Get Your Horse Head On” Prop Making Session for the Paul Revere Ride
July 28th, 6 p.m., (Wednesday) Generation X Garden (4th St between b and c), NYC

2. Paul Revere Ride – The Developers Are Coming! Dress like Paul Revere – colonial style!! Be prepared to dance to save the gardens!
July 29th, 7 p.m. (Thursday)- meet at Tompkin Square Park

3. Save Our Garden Celebration/BBQ (with flag and banner making)
Bring food, friends, family and garden stories to share – prepare for fun!
July 31, starting at 4 p.m., (Saturday) Generation X Community Garden (4th St btwn b and c) NYC

4. Harvest Day Rally at City Hall (in conjunction with other garden groups’ press conference)
August 2nd – 10 or 11 am (Monday) (exact time and location TBA)

5. Proposed Rules Public Hearing/Rally – Let’s rally around the hearing and let them know how we feel about saving our community gardens! Bring instruments and props – be creative!
August 10, 10:30 a.m. rally before 11 am public hearing (Tuesday)
Chelsea Rec center, 430 W. 25th Street, Manhattan

Remember if you want to speak at this Public Hearing, email by August 9th Laura Velle, at Laura.LaVelle@parks.nyc.gov and write, “I intend to make a statement at the August 10th Public Hearing on the Parks and HPD Rules for Community Gardens. Please add my name to the list of speakers.”

Press release
With the new parks and HPD rules (see below), the city has taken a huge step backward. Community gardens in New York have thrived since the 2002 Spitzer Agreement which preserved these precious green spaces (“2002 Preservation Agreement”). Yet, with the Preservation Agreement expiring on September 17, 2010, the city appears to have abandoned its efforts to preserve green spaces. With the new rules, all the gardens may now be legally transferred for development, rather than preserved.

The benefits of gardens are many. “Community gardening is a way to fight the systemic injustice of poverty and other forms of structural oppression. Most of the gardens are in poor areas of the city, with much higher rates of asthma and lower rates of open space equity. From an indigenous/community perspective, gardens offer a way for our community to heal itself and to recover a humanizing sense of itself – its dignity – in an otherwise very hard city,” explained Friends of Brook Park gardener Ray Figueroa. For New Yorkers of all walks of life, the gardens provide much needed green space (particularly in low-income communities of color).

“Don’t destroy our gardens. Don’t destroy our communities,” declared long time Lower East Side activist Paul Bartlett. “Gardens helps us connect with both the earth and our communities, in ways which parking lots, coffee shops, and other urban spaces fail to.”

“Make all existing community gardens permanent for the sake of our children, and our children’s children,” declared Lower East Side Ariane Burgess heeding the call for the city to preserve, not to destroy, their green spaces. “Such spaces promote positive youth development, as well as spaces for community members to come together.”

“Gardens are a place for us to form communities in connection with nature, the foundation of our existence. The more connected we are with nature as a community, the more likely we will become more sustainable in our economic lives, step by step. The more disconnected we are to nature, the more likely we are to destroy the environment that is the foundation of our existence,” Bartlett continued.

“Gardens are amazing spaces to educate students about the environment, environmental research, planting, sustainable agriculture, and urban farming, as well as positive forms of community development and democracy renewal,” explained Benjamin Shepard, a New York college professor and father of two girls. “I bring a group of students to a garden every semester, and they love seeing these unique spaces. My kids love the gardens as a much needed space to play and explore outside of the asphalt of the concrete jungle of New York City.” In this way, gardens function as distinct park and play spaces used by all New Yorkers and tourists.

All gardens have something to contribute. After all, Burgess concludes, “In the future the community gardens are going to play a huge roll in Food Security – many offer opportunities for establishing urban farms.”

“In the midst of a fiscal crisis, the city could only dream of having such unique spaces which help the city so much, yet cost so little,” explained Benjamin Shepard. “Gardens help stabilize communities and reduce crime. They are also places where people of all walks of life come together. They are places of education about the environment and the city, as well as the world ecology. These are precious public spaces, which should not be privatized.”

“This is the hottest summer on record,” explained Lower East Side gardener JK Canepa. “Community gardens help cool Manhattan. If you allow the gardens to be turned into concrete spaces, the city only gets hotter.” After all, gardens promote health and the reduction of heat throughout the five boroughs.

Sharon S., a community gardener in East New York, said he wants to ask the mayor, “What kind of green are you preserving? In Plan 2030, you say you want this to be a green city. Being a green city does not mean catering to developers. To be truly green, Mr. Mayor, we need you to expand green space in every neighborhood, not just the wealthy ones. Community gardens are the only open green spaces that many low income neighborhoods have. Yet you’re replacing the good 2002 Preservation Agreement with rules that will bulldoze gardens one by one.”

“In a time of fiscal crisis when New Yorkers have seen reduction in services and increases in costs across the board, why cut something people love and that costs the city almost nothing?” asked Lower East Side environmental activist Bill DiPaulo.

“Most other cities consider the gardens something to cherish. This is an opportunity for Bloomberg to demonstrate he appreciates green space is a resource for global cooling and community development,” explained Times Up! Director Bill DiPaulo. “Why should the mayor sell this space off to developers when there is such an opportunity to create a different kind of green, more forward leaning New York? Making gardens permanent could be Bloomberg’s legacy.”

In the end, those involved with Times Up! and the garden movement urge the city to reject these rules and makes a final commitment to a green city by making all the gardens permanent once and for all. The group plans to organize to defend these precious spaces using a wide range of means, from legal advocacy to direct action. The group plans to stage a “Paul Revere” Group Bike Ride to the gardens next week to sound the alarm that the gardens are in danger.

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