Sunday, November 28, 2010

All out for gardens hearing November 29, 2010

Press Release:


Contacts: Benjamin Shepard 917.586.7952; Susan Howard 917.207.6738;

Times Up! Statement for Oversight Hearing on Community Gardens
Any plans for a green NYC, must include passing a law that preserves, supports and creates more community gardens.

New York, NY (November 29, 2010) –

The mobilization for the community gardens this summer shows there is overwhelming support for expanded green space in the city. And when needed, people will organize. While we are proud that the city responded to the work of activists citywide to preserve the gardens, we need a law. Until there is a law passed and gardens are mapped as parkland, garden supporters will remain suspect of the city’s intentions. For example, we noted that in her Food Works speech last week, speaker Quinn spoke of several pieces of pending "green" legislation - the passage of which she is guaranteeing. Yet when she talked about the community gardens - it was clear that there is NO legislation pending before the City Council that would make the gardens permanent - just talk about support - but no real legislative action.

As of today, we are losing lots and lots of gardens. We’ve lost 350 since 1999 and a lot more than that over the decades. In 1980, the city had 1400 gardens. Today, there are only 300 community gardens preserved in parks. The few remaining under other agencies are in imminent danger of being bulldozed. Additionally the Parks Department has been in the practice of "swapping" these preserved gardens, moving gardens out of parks to be bulldozed for housing. This practice must stop. Many of these swapped gardens are still green spaces and must be preserved. We oppose the loss of these spaces. And Astro Turf and cement pocket parks don’t count (and in fact do more harm than good).

We are concerned about the lack of commitment to support, preserve, or create new green spaces. The social rate of return for community gardens in terms of quality life, property values, increased civic participation, food security, green space, global warming should help make preserving and creating more gardens a priority for the city. Any discussion of PlanNYC should include ways to preserve and create more community gardens to ensure green spaces as part of the sustainable future of NYC.

And finally, gardens are not standing in the way of housing. Garden activists support the need for both more gardens and affordable housing. The city could easily reach its benchmarks for truly affordable housing if all properties that went into tax arrears and were taken over by the city, were preserved as low income housing. The City could also review all such properties to indentify land to create community gardens. In sum, ensure gardens are here for our children. Gardens are a crucial part of the solution for our global city's sustainable future.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Direct Action and Fundraisers for Rev Billy and NYCAHN!

Hello Everyone,

Next week is my 41st birthday. Last year, we celebrated at the Picture the Homeless fundraiser.

This year, I’d like to celebrate my birthday with you at two fundraisers for two of my favorite organizing groups in town: Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping (11/16) and the New York City AIDS Housing Network (11/11). I am on the board for the Church of Stop Shopping and on the host committee for NYCAHN. Both groups had amazing years this year, creating potent people’s victories with little to no budgets. Rev. Billy and company spent much of 2010 dropping dirt in the lobbies of Chase banks around the city in protest of the bank’s continued support for mountain top removal. This simple gesture of direct action forced a change in corporate policy. One of my favorite Rev Billy shows this year was for the Gardens and Mountains Save Us! show celebrating this community victory, in connection with the ongoing struggle for green space and public space in NYC! After watching Rev. Billy shows for over a decade, this was probably the best, most connecting, community show I have seen by the Church of Stop Shopping. Please join us for the Rev Billy benefit

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2010 7:00PM - 10:00PM


Theatre 80

80 St. Mark's PLace, at 1st ave

New York, NY 10003

If you can’t make this show, please purchase a ticket for the 10th Anniversary Gala of the New York City AIDS Housing Network (NYCAHN) on November 11th.

For any who knows me, I take few things more seriously than community organizing and building social justice movements. And no group in New York continues the direct action AIDS movement strategy like NYCAHN. This year alone the group successfully pushed the state to decriminalize syringe possession, as well as pushed to have the Senate and Assembly pass a 30% rent cap bill. The governor veto’d the bill and NYCAHN has been after him ever since. November 9th, we have another demo to get the governor to sign this bill at 11 AM at City Hall Park!

Over the years, NYCAHN consistently showed the very best in brilliant, strategic, ethical and transformative organizing. NYCAHN staff and leaders guided and aided my students as they learned the tricks of organizing. They were the most militant and fierce member of the my steering committee at Housing Here and Now. Now I draw from their membership models of homeless and formerly homeless people in my work at Queers for Economic Justice. No group has had a greater impact on how the AIDS movement churns forward, connecting local struggles with global justice campaigns.

NYCAHN organizes homeless and formerly homeless people living with HIV and AIDS in New York City. They prioritize people directly affected as leading all their work. They were one of the few progressive groups who were successful in getting legislation through the New York State Senate this year. They use direct action, fierce protest, and serious on the ground organizing to wage some of the strongest left campaigns in New York. Through their sister organization, VOCAL, former and active drug users fight for civil rights and just drug policy. NYCAHN is a core strategic leader in building the future of a left in New York lead by those with the most stake in fundamentally transforming this city.

In just over two weeks, NYCAHN/VOCAL are holding a major fundraiser celebrating their 10th Anniversary on Thursday, November 11. I'm proud to be on the Host Committee for the event. For all who can afford the $75 tickets, I want to strong encourage you to purchase a ticket, including for those who live outside of the city or who can't attend. For everyone, I ask you to donate whatever you are able to NYCAHN.

Too purchase tickets or make a donation, go to

The event details:

NYCAHN/VOCAL 10th Anniversary Gala

November 11, 2010, from 7 PM to 10 PM

1199 Penthouse

330 West 42nd St, 33rd Floor

Please let me know if you are able to join us or otherwise contribute to NYCAHN. Thank you.

In Solidarity,

Benjamin Shepard