August 31, 2017

Colleen Alderson
Chief of Parklands and Real Estate
NYC Department of Parks and Recreation
830 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10065

RE: Request for transfer of vacant lots to NYC Parks so they can become GreenThumb gardens

Dear Colleen,

With your help, five community gardens that GreenThumb has approved for transfer can become real.

In each case, groups of neighbors have completed the process for starting a new garden. They have identified which vacant lots on their blocks are in the inventory of NYC agencies that do not have active plans for them. They have committed to their future stewardship as community gardens, developing proposals with plans for how the space be used and how they will share the work of maintaining it. They have gained support from hundreds of fellow neighbors, local businesses, schools, community organizations, and their Community Boards. They have completed GreenThumb registration and met with their GreenThumb Outreach Coordinators who are ready to support them.

To make their visions real, people who live near these vacant lots have been requesting that they be transferred to the inventory of NYC Department of Parks and Recreation from the city agencies that do not have active plans for them. GreenThumb has approved these sites for transfer.

We are writing to request that you expedite the transfer of the following properties to NYC Parks. This will ensure they can be transformed from waste spaces that have long added to the hardships of life for those who live nearby, into the beautiful, inclusive community parks and gardens that these same people need and desire! Please enjoy the stories and the photos that follow:

  1. Brooklyn block 1538, lot 43 at 45 Somers Street near Rockaway Ave in Weeksville, Brooklyn. Reference page with garden proposal:

    Some historical background: Weeksville is one of the US’ first free black communities. Starting in the 1930s, the lot was within the red lines of the Homeowner’s Loan Corporation’s infamous redline maps so systematically denied access to credit. In addition, it was cleared by NYC and planned as open space in the Saratoga Square Urban Renewal Plan of 1992, which is still active. This plan was briefly actualized in the early 1990s, when GrowNYC, then called Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC), worked with the adjacent daycare, Love In Action #2 Day Care Center, to build a playground on the lot as part of CENYC’s Lots for Tots program. Between then and now, Love In Action #2 Day Care Center closed, the Lots for Tots program ended, and the playground fell into disrepair and was removed. The lot has been languishing since in the inventory of DCAS or ACS (there’s discrepancy in the city’s own records), though the Saratoga Square Urban Renewal Plan for Open Space here remain active.

    About An EDEN [Enlightened Development Empowered Neighborhood] Garden: A teen and urban farmer who lives near this lot sparked this campaign to create a garden. She connected us to her youth group, DUECES. The young people came up with an incredible plan in partnership with neighbors, elderly growers, and the daycare next door. Their garden, An EDEN Garden, is focused on youth empowerment, community-led development, education and intergenerational learning. With a powerful, youth-led presentation, they inspired and gained unanimous support from their community board. In addition, they were awarded funds from the Building Healthy Communities and GreenThumb Growing Food Capacity grant to make their plan real!

    When GreenThumb staff visited the site this summer, they saw growing beds on the land which we hear deterred them from moving the transfer forward, despite their demonstrated support for these future young gardeners. However, these beds result from people becoming aware, through neighborhood organizing, that this long neglected land is actually owned by NYC and has potential to become a public resource! The people growing these beds could easily be contacted with good news, and they could cease; they would very much prefer to have their growing be official and supported by the government!

  2. Brooklyn block 1230 lots 49, 50 & 51 at Prospect Place at Albany Ave. Reference page with garden proposal:

    Some historical background: This was also a Lots for Tots site created in partnership between GrowNYC, then called Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC), and the adjacent daycare. When the program ended twenty years ago, the gate was locked and the playground fell into disrepair.

    About Prospect Pl Community Garden: Residents of the block have been organizing a campaign that brought together a diverse group of neighbors and the Block Association to revive this abandoned public land as Prospect Place Community Garden. They have gained support from their Community Board as well as attention and resources from Brooklyn Community Foundation’s Crown Heights Neighborhood Strength grants to make their plans real.

  3. Queens block 16103, lots 83, 84 on Beach 84th Street on the Bay in Rockaway Beach. Reference page with garden proposal:

    About Bay 84th Street Community Garden: Wanda McDowell, longtime resident of the block who works in construction, lives directly across the street from this lot and has been spearheading its transformation from a post-Superstorm Sandy dumping ground into a community garden. With a committed group of neighbors, the group gained support from the local Community Board.

    We got an update from GreenThumb that their application was accepted last December, but that its transfer from DCAS to NYC Parks was slowed down by the possible need to apply for a wetlands permit from the State DEC, since it is so close to Jamaica Bay. You and I discussed that this might not actually be needed at the Community Board ULURP hearing on Maple Street’s acquisition, especially considering that community gardening has a mild impact on the environment and a beneficial one that is completely aligned with the DEC’s goal of protecting our coastal and aquatic environments.

  4. Queens block 15960, lots 41, 43, 46, 48, 49 on Beach 43rd Street in Edgemere, the Rockaways. Reference page with garden proposal:

    About Edgemere Coalition Community Garden: Varied residents, from longtime community and sustainability advocates, to youth leaders, are working together to create Edgemere Coalition Community Garden. In October 2015, NYC Housing Preservation and Development invited 596 Acres to be a community partner on the Resilient Edgemere Community Planning Initiative, an initiative to drive the revision of the Edgemere Urban Renewal Area Plan. The final version of the Resilient Edgemere Community Plan, published last March, includes the Edgemere Coalition Community Garden at Beach 43rd Street!

    Like the future Bay 84th Street Community Garden, it is possible that its transfer to NYC Parks is delayed by the potential need for a DEC permit. This might not actually be needed because community gardening is not large-scale development, and is completely aligned with DEC’s goals of protecting our coastal and aquatic environments.

  5. Staten Island block 3284, lots 45 & 61 at Sand Lane and Piave Ave near Humbert Street in Arrochar. Reference page:

    About Sand Lane Garden: Prolific grower and elderly immigrant gentleman Hari is the lead organizer of this future community green space, which will replace a decades-long vacant lot in his neighborhood in the inventory of DCAS. We got confirmation from NYC Parks last summer that the transfer of this lot was underway; unfortunately it was delayed because of a lack of sidewalk in front which the property owner, NYC, is responsible for. Last December, DCAS shared this note: “The Department of Citywide Administrative Services is aware of a proposal to create a community garden at this site and will coordinate actions with the Department of Parks & Recreation, as necessary.” We have not received word that the transfer has moved forward, and Hari continues to reach out to us for advice. 

The expedient transfer of these vacant city-owned lots to NYC Parks will allow them to become thriving public green spaces that improve neighborhoods and benefit all New Yorkers. We stand ready to continue supporting residents through the transformation process to ensure that each community garden is a success!

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and thank you for all you do.

In solidarity,

Mara Kravitz
Director of Partnerships, 596 Acres

Stephanie Alvarado
Director of Advocacy, 596 Acres

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