CB3 Fully Backs the Establishment of a Community Gardens District on the Lower East Side
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Siempre Verde Garden on Stanton St.
In a huge boon to the area’s history of guerrilla gardening, Community Board 3 last night voted to support the creation of a Community Gardens District in the East Village/Lower East Side. That includes the remaining 46 gardens still located within its confines. The full board ratified the advisory resolution recommended by the Parks subcommittee earlier this month.
This verdict is no doubt a success for the nascent grassroots Coalition to Establish a Community Gardens District, which seeks recognition for the decades of cleanup and beautification (e.g. raking needles and bricks).
By instituting the designation, organizers are pushing the city to (1) acknowledge the historical importance of the neighborhood as the birthplace of this world-renowned movement and (2) map the gardens as Park land to award protection from developer poaching under state law.
CB3 member (and local gardener) Ayo Harrington sent a press release, an excerpt of which is published below:
Once there were over 60 community gardeners in Community Board 3 but only 46 remain. Of those owned by the City, the Coalition says none are permanent or receive dedicated budgets to address infrastructure needs. Gardeners and their growing list of supporters, want CB3’s community gardens mapped and designated as park land – which would then take an act of the state legislature to be used for any other purpose; designated as a special district to acknowledge their unique and well-earned place in the City’s history; and management left in the hands of community based volunteers which has proven to be a successful model of operation for over forty years.
Longtime resident and member, Ayo Harrington, who initiated the proposal and coordinates the Coalition, said, “In the 80s I spent years devoting every spare moment gutting and renovating a building in order to secure affordable housing for my family. Winters and rats were horrible. No sooner than settling in, though, I was compelled to turn my attention to the garbage strewn, vacant lots surrounding my home and, with neighbors, spent every spare moment over the next decade removing the most vile garbage ever and turning them into green pockets of beauty. People just may not know how much work and sacrifice gardeners had to make in order to create our community gardens.”
The Coalition has built enormous support. Through tremendous outreach, they’ve collected over 60 letters from diverse sources that include Councilmember Mendez, Assemblymember Glick, Senator Brad Hoylman, Community Access, Fourth Arts Block, Rod Rodgers Duo Multicultural Center, Don Juan’s Barbershop, La Mama, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Lower East Side Ecology Center, Fine Fare Supermarket, Tompkins Square Parents Association, Cooper Square Committee, Sixth Street Community Center, East Village Community Coalition, Citizen’s Committee for NYC, and block and tenant associations to name a few. Their recently started online petition needs just two hundred and sixty signatures to reach one thousand.
“The City needs to recognize the value and vision of its citizens. Since 1973, the people of New York have come together and volunteered their time and hard work to create community gardens for their children and their children’s children. If you want to find the soul of this City come and dig in a community garden.” said Charles Krezell. Krezell heads Loisaida United Neighborhood Gardens (LUNGS), a three year old organization that has brought to CB3 gardens over 150 artists for a two day, annual arts festival; an affordable, weekly food share of fruits and vegetables and over a dozen local high school and college students to work in upwards to twenty gardens through the City’s Summer Youth Employment Program.