|Elizabeth Street Garden, a green space in danger of being developed by the city.|
Five years after Sandy, Garden supporters call for the city to support green spaces, not take them away. Citing the Mayor’s failure to support green space, activists ask the Mayor to save the Elizabeth Street Community Garden. Gardeners point to the benefits of green space for contributing to a more sustainable city five years after Super Storm Sandy flooded NYC.
“Five years since Superstorm Sandy swept thru the East Coast, raged under the full moon and raced in front of high tide, brought the wild ocean to meet the bay in the Rockaways, lapped up the street lights on Wall Street, threw the ocean floor up onto the land, snapped boardwalks like tinder sticks, lit with green flares and then turned off Con Ed in the East Village," the city has a lot to learn, noted JK Canepa, a long time garden supporter.
Yet today, it is planning to pave more green space, instead of supporting spaces where water can drain into the ground. The city has long Roger That and others in recent years.
|Save the Garden, save the city. Roger That Garden was lost.|
“This is no time to destroying gardens, ripping up trees, and giving away green spaces,” adds Elizabeth Street Garden supporter Jeannine Kiely, President of Friends of Elizabeth Garden.
The social rate of return for community gardens takes place in countless forms. We call for the city to support open space, recognizing the multiple benefits of green space in world facing increasing temperatures and climate chaos. Leave the space open the neighborhood enjoys foot traffic, increased business and storm water retention. Five years after Sandy we need to be thinking about storm water retention for a more resilient city.
“The Elizabeth Street Garden open space is an asset that should be protected at all costs,” notes Jeannine Kiely. “and yet the city insists on developing it despite the availability of alternative sites with greater potential housing.”
“No more developer giveaways,” said Emily Hellstorm, longtime resident and Garden volunteer.
"Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Chin are single mindedly focused on developing the Garden, while ignoring other nearby opportunities," said Hellstorm. "Meanwhile they have been asleep on several other major recent real estate decisions that would have allowed the creation of significantly more affordable housing on publicly owned land. Margaret Chin and the Mayor pay lip service to affordable housing but this is really a developer giveaway. This shouldn’t be a hard decision. This is a better alternative that can provide up to six times the affordable housing without destroying the garden.”
“The garden creates park space. It brings a respite from the traffic and noise pollution in a busy person,” notes Jeannine Kiely. “As the city becomes denser, the Mayor’s housing plan has to go hand in hand with a sustainability plan for the city, including more green spaces, gardens, and parks.”
“We’ve done all we could do. We’ve met the mayor, gotten support from the community board, gotten support from politicians, invited the mayor to our garden and he has not come to see our beautiful garden. So we are bringing the garden to City Hall,” notes said Emily Hellstorm. “If the Mayor goes ahead with his plan to destroy the garden there will be thousands more of us out to stop this. We call on Mayor de Blasio to listen to his constituents, focus on the better alternatives and preserve the park for generations to come.”
To this date, there is only one council candidate on record as planning to save the garden. This is Christopher Marte. His campaign literature specifically mentions the garden and need for a waterfront resiliency plan. "Christopher still lives in the Lower East Side, and in his free time can be found volunteering at Elizabeth Street Garden," it declares.
Environmental activists call on the Mayor to consider the lessons of Sandy.
Bill Weinberg, a MoRUS tour guide and the author of Tompkins Square Park: A Legacy of Rebellion, and I talked about the ways the gardens have changed the city. “Did you just see the piece in The Villager about the gardens?” he asked. “Gardens now seen as key part of future storm defense plan,” noted the November 5, 2015, article by Ferguson (2015) in The Villager. The governor’s Office of Storm Recovery gave a $2 million grant. The folks at La Plaza Cultural Community Garden are actually trying to create a model, trying to restore the natural hydrology systems in this hyperdeveloped cityscape. And, they actually created this “French drain” to catch runoff.
In this way, the gardens support neighborhood resiliency. “They are creating bioswales,” noted Weinberg. He read from the article by Ferguson (2015), noting these bioswales “utilize plants and stones to divert water and allow it to be absorbed more slowly into the ground.” That’s what they were doing all summer in La Plaza. They were developing a French drain and a bioswale and “Hugel beds of organic matter that absorb water.” Through such innovation, we come to see gardens as the future of cities coping with flooding. They make cities livable. To do so, designers are looking at the city’s past. “Actually starting to restore our natural hydrological systems here in the big developed cityscape,” explained Weinberg, “This to me, this is what the future should look like, not Uber and Airbnb and cell phones and Citibike and Facebook .… I say we need an induced implosion of the entire world indus- trial apparatus if there is going to be any kind of sustainable future on this planet.” Weinberg is quick to note he learned this term from Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. “And the gardens are starting to do it—creating the sustainable alternative to the industrial apparatus. I find the fact that they just got this big grant to be a big step in the right direction and very inspiring. Mind you, in the grand scheme of things, it’s but one very small counter-friction against the machine, which is working overtime to destroy the planet day in and day out. But you know what are you doing to do? I’ll take what I can get.
The Gardens Rising Storm Recovery Grant was announced at La Plaza Cultural on 9th Street and Avenue C in Manhattan. The New York City Gar- den Coalition (NYCCGC) (2015) explains: “Gardens Rising—will combinecommunity-based participation with engineering expertise, to develop a green infrastructure study and Master Plan to increase the permeability and storm water capture within forty-seven neighborhood/community gardens located in Lower Manhattan. This is a two-phase project, the first phase is to develop a Master Plan to combine the best of gardener expertise, landscape design, engineering, and creative thinking with cost effectiveness and sustainable practices. The project team will examine the feasibility, costs, benefits and impacts of proposed storm water capture locations and methods to increase permeability and green space in the neighborhood gardens to better absorb storm water and runoff. The study area is roughly bounded by 14th Street on the north, the East River on the east, Delancey Street on the south, and the Bowery/Fourth Avenue on the west, and is home to forty-seven (47) gardens measuring approximately seven (7) acres. The majority of the gardens reside within an area that was severely flooded during Superstorm Sandy and many were impacted directly by the storm. When com- pleted the Plan will identify projects that will implement green infrastructure and stormwater capture systems to better outfit these gardens and neighborhoods.… This as a huge step forward for our community gardens, which are finally being recognized as a vital environmental asset. It puts community gardens at the cen- ter of the greening movement in New York City. We intend to parlay this grant into other funding to build other sustainable systems throughout the five boroughs … Gardens Rising should be interwoven with permaculture, solar energy, rat abatement policies, composting practices, citizen science, and other ideas and practices that will evolve with this process” (NYCCGC, 2015).
Save the gardens and save the city.
Five years after Sandy, we all have to understand that green spaces are the future of cities.
Sustainable urbanism is something we all can play a role in creating.