The New York City Community Garden Coalition (NYCCGC) is deeply troubled over the number of sites listed in the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s most recent RFQ for the New Infill Home Ownership Opportunities Program (NIHOP) and Neighborhood Construction Program (NCP) that are currently thriving community gardens.
The NYCCGC and our membership are strong proponents for the construction of affordable housing, and we applaud the Mayor for working to create direly-needed accessible housing through the five boroughs. However, we see no benefit to the community when developers are allowed to build on sites that are active community gardens, consistently providing significant benefits to their neighborhoods.
Community Gardens have for decades been an integral part of the fabric of New York City. These gardens are living symbols of unity built by neighbors who joined together to turn abandoned, trash-strewn lots into vibrant community oases. Community Gardens in the City represent a truly holistic, resilient, cost-effective neighborhood-based source of sustainable food production, increasing people’s access to locally grown fresh produce, while negating effects of climate change by reducing carbon emissions.
NYCCGC considers it unsound policy to destroy community gardens, and selling land to developers when less than 10% of HPD’s vacant lots contain flourishing community gardens. Given these numbers it is clear that destroying community gardens forever is not only wrong, it is patently unnecessary.
At the beginning of 2015 we face the biggest crisis of losing community gardens in a decade.Community gardeners city-wide thought they had seen the end of proposals like this.
In 1996 former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani chose 115 community gardens to auction off to the highest bidder. Working diligently with State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, NYCCGC and our partners obtained a restraining order that in turn forged the 2002 agreement which led to more community garden protections. At that time, Mayor Michael Bloomberg claimed the agreement put an end to the debate between the need for housing and the need for community gardens.
While pursuing the creation of affordable housing, it is needlessly destructive for the Mayor to thwart the sweat equity that citizens have put into community gardens. Affordable housing and community gardens are not mutually exclusive.
NYCCGC urges the Mayor to direct HPD to remove these sites, as well all other active community gardens, from its most recent list of developable sites. HPD has an abundance of potential sites on which it can develop affordable housing.
Open, vacant lots should be prioritized as buildable over those with active uses such as community gardens. The Mayor should pursue policies to permanently protect every community garden while at the same time creating affordable housing units in New York City for our children and future generations.