Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself.
-old Apache saying
Friday, January 3, 2014
In the dead of night. Bastards.
Developers Destroy NY Community Garden
Founded in the 1980s, Coney Island’s Boardwalk Garden was a beloved spot for community members, who made use of the site to grow a profuse array of vegetables, raise chickens, and even house cats down on their luck. When the rumblings of development threatened the site, people fought back, but a body blow was struck over the weekend when developers came in the dead of night to raze the garden, crate up the chickens and boot them to the sidewalk, and serve the cats with eviction notices. In only a few hours, nearly 30 years of history were swept away under the treads of earthmoving equipment.
This isn’t the first time a community garden has been forcibly expelled
from its established home, and it’s not even the first incident where developers
facing angry community members have chosen to clear gardens at night in the
hopes of avoiding conflict. Shocked gardeners arrived at the site on Monday
morning to a site of total devastation, and they struggled to pick up the
pieces: the chickens were taken in by a gardener, which others
tried to round up tools and equipment. The demolition happened so quickly that
community members didn’t even have time to harvest what they
had growing in the garden.
Younger community members noted that many older adults had enjoyed working in
the garden; gardening and horticultural therapy can be valuable for
people who might feel isolated from the community, a common issue for older
adults. Former Boardwalk Garden members are facing not just the loss of a source
of food, but also the destruction of a community hub, and they need to find a
new location to set up, if they can.
City officials claim the garden was “decommissioned” in 2004 and had been
operating illegally ever since, justifying the destruction. Gardeners don’t seem
so convinced, and the incident may lead to futher tensions in the area,
highlighting the fact that a growing number of people are getting involved with
urban gardening, and many of them are getting vocal and assertive in defense of
the right of green spaces in urban environments. What’s next for the Boardwalk
Garden remains to be seen, but it most assuredly won’t be growing where it used
Successful relocation of urban gardens for development purposes has been
pursued in some communities, but it does come at a cost. Gardens that have been
worked for decades usually have especially rich, high-quality soil, thanks to
the hard work of gardeners, and this is not something that’s easily relocated.
Many also have their own infrastructure, including fencing,
raised beds, sheds for tools, greenhouses, and more; resettling an urban garden
in these cases involves providing some kind of compensation or assistance with
rebuilding from New York carpenters.
The situation can get even more complicated when a garden also includes
permaculture like fruit trees, which do not take kindly to relocation once
they’re mature. For a well-established urban garden that’s been worked on for
years, relocation isn’t necessarily the best choice: better options can include
integrating the garden into a development project, or reconsidering proposed
development of land.
After surviving Hurricane Sandy, nearly three decades of development
pressure, and the harsh realities of urban life, the Boardwalk Garden vanished
in a single night, illustrating how fragile urban gardening can be without the
support of city officials and development firms. This case shows the importance
of cultivating strong community ties, securing and defending permits and other
legal permissions, and being vocally engaged with permitting and development
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