Save NYC's Community Gardens

The ongoing battle between community garden activists and New York City lawmakers is a threat to the green spaces that mean so much to neighborhoods and communities across New York City.  While we don’t have all the answers, below is some information about the current situation.  Check back for updates!

The following is from the Greenthumb website….

Click here to download a copy of the new community garden rules

Parks Commissioner Announces Final Community Garden Rules Strengthening Protections for Gardens

Published September 20, 2010

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe yesterday announced that the Parks Department finalized its Community Garden Rules, which incorporate significant changes based on public comments made on the draft rules. The Notice of Adoption, including the full rules, was published in the City Record on Monday, September 13, 2010 and will take effect 30 days later.

Key changes to the proposed rules, led by Commissioner Benepe in concert with elected officials, community boards and community garden organizations, were made in response to testimony from the community at a public hearing on August 10, 2010, which was hosted by the Parks Department. They include:

” Active gardens under the Parks Department’s jurisdiction are preserved as gardens as long as they are registered and licensed by the Department.

” Licenses will be renewed as long as the garden satisfies the registration criteria.

” Parks must attempt to identify successor gardening groups for failing gardens and has nine months from time of default to return the garden to active status.

” New gardens may be created and will have the same protections as existing gardens.

” A party licensed by the City to perform work that results in damage to a garden will be required to return the garden to its preexisting condition.

” The Department will attempt to provide notices required under the Current Rules to gardeners in other languages.

” The Statement of Basis and Purpose states that gardens will be preserved and explains that the transfer and development provisions apply to abandoned and persistently non-compliant gardens under the Department’s jurisdiction.

There are more than 600 gardens across New York City – the largest network of community gardens in the country. Parks has jurisdiction over 282 gardens.

In 2002, the City signed an agreement with the New York State Attorney General over the status and treatment of community gardens, creating a framework both for preserving gardens and finding alternate sites, when development of a lot is necessary.

With the 2002 agreement set to expire in September, the City has long been working on rules that clarify and codify practices regarding New York’s community gardens. The new rules serve to codify practices established in the 2002 agreement as well as strengthen the protections afforded gardens under the Parks Department’s jurisdiction. The rules, which were proposed in the City Record and then received a public hearing at the Chelsea Recreation Center on August 10, 2010, have been significantly revised to reflect the ideas and concerns of the community after the public hearing.

A community garden is a City-owned and community-managed parcel of land. Most are approximately 1/3 of an acre although some are larger. Active community gardens allow members of the public to play an active, hands-on role in the creation and maintenance of public open spaces used for recreation, education, horticulture and food production. They also serve to increase civic participation and spur neighborhood revitalization, transforming vacant and unattractive plots of public land throughout the five boroughs. In addition, the gardens offer vital environmental and health benefits.

The City has been actively involved in the success of community gardens for decades. Parks’ Green Thumb division, which currently has 15 full-time staff, is devoted to helping gardeners and providing them with materials and expert advice. In an average year, Green Thumb runs approximately 55 workshops and provides soil, lumber, tools, and ongoing expertise as needed and requested to both beginning and advanced community gardeners. Green Thumb began in 1978 under a City agency then known as the Department of General Services. In 1995, the program was placed under the Parks Department, though not all gardens are within that agency’s jurisdiction, much less owned by the City. In addition, the Green Thumb division is responsible for licensing parcels under Parks jurisdiction to community groups for use as community gardens. For more information on community gardens and the new rules, please visit our website at www.nyc.gov/parks.