Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Community Gardeners to Mayor @BilldeBlasio #‎DontBeRudy! ‬ Save all the gardens!

The night before the big NYCCG press conference, we sat working  on messages till late in the night.
Joe and I talked about hash tags.

#DontBeRudy he suggested.  We all laughed recalling those odd days in New York when gardeners were pitted against self proclaimed forces of order, those who favor community dueling with those who see urban space as a community from which to maximize profit.  The age of communism is over Giuliani once proclaimed, dubbing gardeners out of touch with reality, supporters of decay, the rotten apple, and even of,  gasp,  communism.  He was a master of division.  But there is another narrative, which suggests we have to move beyond false debates  about gardens vs affordable housing, toward an authentic engagement with the earth, those across generations, and time. We need to learn more about this story, to tell it to each other, to our friends, enemies, everyone as we did at City Hall. The future of our city depends upon it. 

As Joshua Hakimi puts it:
"A garden is an accomplishment whose benefits radiate through a community in small and larger ways. To destroy it in the name of development is to act with the callousness of a colonizer - who sees only "available space" where a community is already thriving." C.H., NYPL librarian, petition signee.

Throughout the planning session,we worked our hashtags:
Mayor @BilldeBlasio
No more false promises ratner.
Without gardens, its always winter in nyc
Savethe16SaveAll theGardens
fight global warming, save the community gardens Gardens are already all of our homes.
Where will the ladybugs live?

And painted and talked, and made art, and talked, and painted, and touched things up, remembered old battles, garden campaigns, roving garden parades, earth celebrations, and garden ho downs, before going to bed by two am.

Gardens are about community. Protecting them always helps us further that aim.  This is part of why you saw so many lovely people out today, articulating what they love about the communion between people and the dirt, the city and the bugs, the worms and the compost, the children and the elders, the poems and the flowers, the oddballs and the organizers who hang out in these spaces.

Dropping by city hall at 8:30 we stood outside waiting to get into city hall.
So we talked and organized and eventually made our way inside.     

Gradually the space filled up with people.

And everyone showed off their signs.

Some wingnut in funflower hat and the good rev. 

Aziz introduced everyone at the press conference.

"Everybody oughta know – what carots are," Reverend Billy sang welcoming everyone.
Today, we are the church of dirt under my fingernails.
He cheered for the gardeners and rejected the false dichotomy between affordable housing and gardens.  That’s the biggest con in all of New York he reminded us.

Rosie Mendez followed talking about #‎DontBeRudy!  She remembered the old days when gardens were bulldozed in her district all the time and mayor Giuliani had police arrest gardeners saving their bulbs before their gardens were destroyed.  We are not going back to that.  We need open space to breathe, she followed.

“We are not going back,” the crowd roared.

#DontBeRudy” we chanted over and over again, pleading with the mayor .

"Good Morning, all. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak today. This is actually the first public statement I have made about HPD’s inclusion of community gardens on the list of development sites, so you’ve shown a lot of faith by giving me the mic. I’m pleased that we have the mutual trust that makes that possible.
There was a reason I didn’t speak out immediately following HPD’s publication of the list of development properties in January, even though there were more gardens listed in my district then any other. I wanted to take the time to try and understand HPD’s decision making. There’s no doubt that the 36th district needs more truly affordable housing. And it’s a good thing that HPD is acting on it commitment to construct a small number of units for affordable home ownership. I was open to an explanation that demonstrated the absolute necessity of using the garden sites. I asked for a full explanation, but that’s not what I’ve received.
Specifically, I asked that HPD share the objective criteria used to determine which vacant lots were appropriate for inclusion in this RFP. Shockingly, they have shared NO criteria. And I asked that HPD provide me with a map of list of all the city-owned properties in the district of every size, to show that these much loved garden sites were somehow uniquely appropriate. Again, HPD chose to share nothing.
Yesterday, HPD informed me that it is “evaluating” the decision to include the 16 gardens in the RFP but they STILL would not share any information on the factors in this reported re-evaluation or the original selection. Is it fair for all of these deliberations to be happening only among HPD’s staff? NO!
This refusal to be transparent and engage in anything resembling a collaborative decision-making process is extremely problematic. Frankly, I don’t think there’s any excuse for it. HPD’s secrecy is putting both the gardens’ members and elected officials in an unnecessary position and today, I’m speaking out to reject their false dichotomy.
We live together in community. We garden together in community. And our communities deserve gardens and high, quality truly affordable housing. Our communities deserve a process that respects their deep level of engagement with our city government and with one another.  We refuse to be excluded in a way that pits these two goals against one another.
Unless HPD demonstrates that these garden sites are uniquely appropriate for development, I will stand with you against their destruction. And if I am convinced that the loss of the gardens cannot be avoided, I will share all the information I have to explain that decision, support gardening and greening in other ways and fight to ensure that the sacrifice is worth it, because the housing produced is high quality and accessible to average families in the district.
I thank you for your dedication to the gardens, to one another and for your advocacy."

Haja sang: We shall not be, we shall not be moved.  

Others talked about sweat equity,  years of work, organizing, the efforts to clean up these spaces and plant some bit of hope for the future, for our future.

Ray followed with a question: what do you plant in a community garden
- Community.
They can’t take that from us.

As we finished, Dragonfly serenaded everyone with peaceful beatitudes and messages about earth worms.

Aziz, Paula,Karen, Ray, everyone were wonderful.  Thank you gardeners, thank you for reminding us that a city can have some heart and collective intelligence.  It can be a city of friends.   I hope the Mayor follows our lead. #DontBeRudy

280 Broadway, New York, New York 10007

Join the New York City Community Garden Coalition
& Concerned New Yorkers for a Rally and Press Conference with Council Member Antonio Reynoso
On the Steps of City Hall (Manhattan) – Tuesday, February 10 at 9 a.m. Invite your friends and share widely!

We are demanding that the mayor stop HPD from giving
17 active community gardens away to housing developers when
there are dozens of vacant lots that can be used to build on instead.


Support 462 Halsey Community Garden, Electric Ladybug Garden, Harlem Valley Farm, Harlem Grown, Patchen Community Square, EL Garden Bushwick, Isabahlia Ladies of Elegance Foundation, Inc., Imani Community Garden, La Casita Verde, Brownsville Student Farm Project, Green Valley Community Garden, New Harvest Community Garden, Halsey Ralph and Howard Community Garden, McKinley's Children's Garden, Pleasant Village Community Garden & Jackie Robinson Community garden.


From: Aresh Javadi [Add to Address Book]
To: mayfirst
Subject: [MG] Rally to Defend, Preserve and Create More Community Gardens - February 10th, starting at 9 A.M. be there 8.30am
Date: Feb 9, 2015 11:35 PM
Attachments: image.jpeg Press_Release_02-10-15.docx unknown-364 B
City Hall Rally to Save HPD Community Gardens Tuesday February 10th at 9am - be there 8.30am
On Tuesday, February 10th, at 9 A.M. the NYCCGC, community members, partnering housing organizations, and various elected representatives will be rallying on the steps of city hall to protest the lack of transparency and community involvement in issuing an RFQ to developers to build affordable housing on “vacant” lots throughout the 5 boroughs.
A large 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) are disproportionally thriving, active community gardens.
Make no mistake, we are all in favor of affordable housing. Many of us would have a direct benefit from this proposal. Affordable housing and community gardens are compatible. We advocate for more gardens and more housing. We do not understand how the selection process came about and why 17 active community gardens were selected as lots to be developed.
These community gardens were a direct result of sweat equity that neighbors used to improve their neighborhoods. And it seems undeniably wrong to destroy the very asset that makes neighborhoods livable and a place where developers subsequently seek to build.
We ask Mayor de Blasio to give all community members a place at the table to make NYC livable. In a speech this past January, he said: “We have a duty to protect and preserve the culture and character of our neighborhoods, and we will do so.”
We ask the Mayor to honor his sentiment and words.
We ask the Mayor to direct HPD to remove not just these affected community gardens but all community gardens currently in HPD jurisdiction and transfer them to Parks where they will have a measure of protected permanence.
HPD has an abundance of potential sites on which it can develop affordable housing. 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.
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.
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.

Aziz Dehkan 
Eighty 20 Group


  1. Hey! Great pictures and post about the rally!! Can we share some of the photos on the 462 Halsey Facebook page? If so, how can we credit you? Thanks!

    1. feel free to post them . just as benjamin shepard