Few, if any, real estate battles are as lopsided as the ones that pit community garden operators against developers intent on building on the land. In 2010, in response to an outcry over disappearing gardens, the city attempted to create some guidelines that would offer them a little bit of protection, but since landowners can't actually be prevented from claiming the land they own, the guidelines don't really do much. Indeed, in the past couple years we've seen the Crow Hill Community Garden in Crown Heights, the Boardwalk Community Garden in Coney Island, and the Children's Magical Garden on the Lower East Side fall prey to developers, despite vocal objections and, in some cases, futile lawsuits from the community. Here are four more community gardens currently fighting for their existences.
On the Lower East Side, the two-year-old Siempre Verde Garden faces a threat from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and William Gottlieb Real Estate, who want to use the site for a five-story, 16-unit building that would include three units of affordable housing. At a recent Community Board 3 meeting, the board, with the support of the community, voted to reject the developers' application and transfer the garden to the Park Department, making it permanent. However, the Community Board's role is purely advisory, so Gottlieb and the city will almost certainly get their way in the end.
The Roger That Garden in Crown Heights was acquired by developer Steve Billings of TYC Realty last November for next to nothing. Billings proceeded to put up a fence around it and mock the gardeners' fundraising efforts by telling them that they could keep the site for $500,000, and later upping that number to $1 million. The community has responded by painting some murals, so this one isn't looking too good.
The fight over the Maple Street Community Garden in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens is an interesting one, as the plot's (ostensible) owners, brothers Michael and Joseph Makhani, have a history of fraudulent real estate dealings including filing false deeds. The brothers Makhani showed up at the garden with no warning last month and started ripping it apart. Garden volunteers summoned the police, who forced the Makhanis to leave after they failed to produce proper documentation saying that they owned the site. Since then, it appears that everything has been quiet, but that was only four weeks ago.
The LaGuardia Corner Gardens is one of three sites (the other two are LaGuardia Park and Mercer Playground) that New York University is fighting for control of so that it can follow through with its huge expansion. Unfortunately for the Greenwich Village residents fighting to keep the garden, NYU has used underhanded tactics in the past to ensure that the three sites were never officially designated as parkland, and last week an appellate court ruled in the university's favor. That's not the end of the lawsuits, so the garden remains for the time being, but this one is looking like a losing battle, too.
· Siempre Verde Garden coverage [Curbed]
· Roger That Garden coverage [Curbed]
· Maple Street Community Garden coverage [Curbed]
· LaGuardia Corner Gardens coverage [Curbed]