The local gardener versus big developer is a common David-and-Goliath situation in New York City, and now, for more than a dozen community gardens, the city is Goliath, in an effort to build more affordable housing. This week, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development released a list of nearly 180 city-owned development sites, asking developers to submit proposals for small condo (up to 14 homes) and rental (up to 30 apartments) projects. By DNAinfo's count, at least 15 of the sites are currently used as community gardens. But there could be more; of the HPD's 1,000 vacant lots, 74 of them hold gardens, according to the nonprofit 596 Acres.
DNAinfo talked to a few gardeners who were shocked and saddened by the news, but they knew that this could happen. When a community garden opens on city-owned land, they sign a letter of understanding stating that the use is temporary and that they won't try to stop any development plans. HPD spokesman Eric Bederman told DNAinfo, "While community gardens add a great value to our city, our mission as an agency is to address the affordable housing crisis that affects tens of thousands of hardworking New York families." Still, some argue that razing gardens could be easily avoided, given the city's large inventory of vacant sites.
Here are a few of the gardens that could be in danger:
· Jackie Robinson Community Garden at Park Avenue and East 122nd Street, which has existed for more than two decades.
· La Casista Verde, opened last summer at 451 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg
· Electric Ladybug Garden at 239 West 111th Street. The city has already padlocked this space.
· 126 West 134th Street, operated by Harlem Grown
· 197 West 134th Street
· 615 Saratoga Avenue in Bed-Stuy
· Evergreen Lots at 120 Jefferson Street in Bushwick. 596 Acres helped create this garden.
· 659 WIlloughby Avenue at Throop Avenue in Bed-Stuy
· 1680 Pacific Street in Crown Heights
· 462 Halsey Street in Bed-Stuy (coincidentally, the website for this garden expired 8 days ago)
· 119 Vernon Avenue in Bed-Stuy (poor Bed-Stuy)