Friday, May 3, 2019

Mayday Beltane! 2019, When the City Tries to Take Your Garden! and other tales from the climate CATASTROPHE!!!

Tearing of ribbons .3 many times long as limb to gather in bundles and tie to tree top — withBenjamin Heim Shepard. Photo by Peewee Nyob. Beltane Like Ya Never Beltaned Before! Like It's 2019!

Throughout our trip to Bucharest last week, we wondered  what system creates the most dynamic cities?
The preservation of the old  with the new,
Mixing bodies and ideas,
A flow of immigrants and innovations.
The privatization  of the commons under capitalism.
Or  the wrecking balls of communism creating dull plazas?

The question is on  my mind whenever I travel.
It certainly was on  my mind riding across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall for yet another rally to save the community gardens on Mayday.

While my friends in Ft Greene were out protesting to save the trees, we were at City Hall calling for the city to save the gardens, doing so saving city.

Many of  the usual suspects were there.
As were gardeners from Harlem to Little Italy.

One of  the organizers from the Mandela Garden in Harlem explained:

“We live in a time where atrocities has become normalized. Opioid addiction is exploding. Suicide is rising. Even people with good jobs, friends and family are falling into despair in record numbers. The pursuit of money for the sake of money is not making anybody happy. We need a cultural and spiritual awakening. We need to connect to community and we need to connect to nature. This is what community gardens provide in abundance. It’s a quantifiable scientific fact that people who live in proximity to gardens experience significantly higher degrees of emotional well being. A flower can make you happy. A friend can make you smile. It’s working for and with community that gives our lives meaning. And yet the city continues to float the obvious canard that we must choose between Affordable Housing and Community Gardens Let’s put an end to this false narrative with facts. According to NYC comptrollers office there are 990 “empty lots” that can be utilized for housing. Mandela Garden, Elizabeth Street Garden and Pleasant Village Community Garden are just 3 of them. All three of these gardens represent less than half of one percent of the total inventory available. Half of one percent. Please join us. Write, tweet, post and demand, demand that the mayor save these gardens. Demand that the city take city land. Land that is the property of we the people and create a plan that increases both open space AND truly affordable housing. Demand that this administration return to us a sustainable, green future not only for this generation but for those yet to come.”

We all need these nutrients.
Gardens give us access to badly needed public space,
Where kids can play,
Combat alienation,
Beat back depression,
Learn about the  dirt,
And make sense of the world.

New York needs open green space.
That’s why we created Central Park.
Imagine New York without it.
Imagine what the city will be like in 40 years if we keep on paving the commons.
In the era of climate change, we need gardens and open space,
For community development,
To help retain storm water.
To give the rain water a place to drain.

This project won’t deal with the housing crisis.
Only rent control can do that. 
Everyone knows we have enough housing units.
We just need to count them and make sure they are accessible and affordable.

As Jamie Jenson, a Friend of Elizabeth Street Garden,
 put it in history written testimony to
 New York City Council Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses  on May 2nd 2019:

“My name is Jamie Jensen, and I want to add my voice in opposition to the proposal known as Haven Green, which will destroy Elizabeth Street Garden without providing any truly affordable, supportive housing for our neediest senior citizens.
I thank the Committee for considering the implications of this misguided and deceptive plan, which will destroy the only open green space in our densely urban neighborhood,  between Little Italy and Chinatown.   I share the concerns of the thousands of supporters of Elizabeth Street Garden, and want to draw your attention to two issues that are most troubling.
First of these is that, despite the rhetoric of the real estate companies and the city's department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Haven Green proposal will not help the most vulnerable elderly New Yorkers.  As Council Members will know from experiences with HPD's so-called "affordable housing" in East New York and elsewhere, what HPD counts as affordable is not actually affordable in the real world.  The small studio apartments at Haven Green will be "affordable" only to individuals earning a minimum of $45,000 a year, which is many times the average income received by most elderly people, many of whom are reliant on Social Security and Disability payments.
Even more worrying is the fact that HPD is supporting this destructive Haven Green plan, while at the same time the neighborhood's largest and most successful genuinely affordable housing project, the adjacent Section 8 apartments at LIRA right next door, are being allowed to slip away into the private market.  Because of HPD's inattention, 150 large and spacious apartments and their 300 low-income residents will be displaced from our community, forced onto the streets or to move far away from Lower Manhattan.
If HPD were made to do its job, and worked to preserve existing affordable housing rather than giving away public land and destroying our beloved community garden, New York would be a better place for all. I urge you to reject this Haven Green proposal, save Elizabeth Street Garden, and tell HPD to do its job and preserve truly affordable, supportive housing for our neediest citizens.
Thank you.”

On the steps of City Hall,   Marni Halasa carried a sign declaring:
 Luxury Developments are killing the city.

More gardens, more trees, New York has got to breathe!!!!

The press conference was a warm  up for the hearing on May 2nd.

Jennifer Romine shared a post.
14 hrs ·
Final city hearing before city goes forward with Haven Green development which will destroy the Elizabeth Street Garden, the historic character of the neighborhood, and break the hearts of so many low-income Chinese, Italian, Puerto Rican, Dominican seniors, not to mention all the families, workers, small businesses, creative entrepreneurs, and so many others who rely on this vital community space to give back to this city. Get big money out of NYC affordable housing plans. Time's Up! Do it Now Mr. Mayor, BP Brewer, CM Chin. All talk and no action on behalf of immigrant seniors and so many other vulnerable populations is not a plan.

Marni Halasa reflected:
Whether it’s the horrific illegal taking of our public gardens, the RAD Conversion of NYCHA public housing or Refusing to give Small business owners the right to not be extorted by their landlords, and to have an affordable lease, it’s one BIG LAND GRAB. City Council is getting their real and true reputation of being good on social issues, while at the same time being the arm of the big real estate lobby. That is unacceptable and that will be a problem for them in the next election. They will be primaried from the left, they will lose, and they will deserve it.

Finishing the rally, I rode to one of my favorite community gardens, Le Petit Versailles on Houston Street.
Where Maypole decorations were begining!
3 PM - Maypole dancing commences!
There Jack and Peter were hosting:
“Our annual May Day Beltane celebration is a lovely gathering for delightful decorating, dancing and drumming. Merrymaking begins at 12 noon to ribbon and paint the maypole. Then the dance commences around 3 PM, calling on the (un)natural world to honor & bless the coming seasons which includes all the exciting new events scheduled for LPV.”

The teenager joined  Peter, Lucia and I at the garden,
Chatting away as we tore fabric, preparing the maypole.
Talking about the day, the garden, and the city.
Feels like we are in the epicenter of it all, notes Peter.
With the city crushing down on us.
Cars and development encroaching up and down the street.
Still Le Petit Versailles soothes and comforts us.
Lucia leaves,
Peewee Nyob and Jack welcome friends.
What a misty Belatine full of color, chorus and cheer!
Here's to the queer celebrants from near, far and wide.
A lilac topped limb
sweet fragrant life to old wood.
REpurpose REcycle REinvigorate

And I ride home, back to holy Brooklyn to meet the little ones again. 
As the city opens  up.
Mayday marches.
My friends zapping Betsy D.
Immigrants moving.

Kids thinking about history.
Josephine and Paris.

Caroline was with Trevor.
And Andrew was welcoming friends at the Magician.
What’s the topic of the salon, 
Asks Greg.
Beer, Kvetching, More Beer, More  Kvetching,  Climate Activism, and so on.
For  Happy Hour #67, This Mayday.
(plus your vote is needed  for 99 paradoxes)
Explains Andrew:
                                                 Ok, beautiful new yorkers--
this wednesday is May 1, May Day, a day to mark the onset of spring, to celebrate workers rights, and raise a glass to the international day of the fuckin' revolution, and... for better or worse, the deadline i set myself to "finish" the draft of the over-long numskull of a book i've been nursing along for way too many moons...

i'm happy to report that these last weeks (except for the 36-hours a stomach virus stole from me that i’ll never get back), i’ve been in a furious work mode... and i’m *mostly* on track! but, notice that word "mostly" and the asterisks around it... yup, you guessed it, I haven't quite gotten where I needed to get... if I had got to where I'd needed to get, i was going to bring a bit fat printout of the whole ugly thing to our happy hour gathering so we could celebrate its "completion" — or, um, use it as kindling to make hot-totties or self-immolate... but having not got to where I needed to get, I thought I'd split the difference and print out the table of contents — because it seems what I'm really good at (so much better at than actually "finishing" the book itself) is coming up with excellent chapter titles! i also seem to be really good at coming up with half-decent *alternatives* to the not-yet-excellent chapter titles... so i'm also going to bring some of those, too, and let y'all put your +1s on the ones you like, scratch out the ones you don't, and write in your own (even better) ideas!

you're also free to ignore all of it, and just chat and drink beer with yr pals and other innerestin' folks.

in either case, I hope to see y'all at...

“...that magical first-wednesday-of-the-month happy hour with some of your favorite creative beer-drinking world-changing ne'er-do-wells at these coordinates:

when: Wednesday, May 1 | 7pm—until midnight or so
where: in the backroom at the Magician Bar (118 Rivington, at the corner of Essex, in the LES)
what: beer, camaraderie, more beer, more camaraderie,
special guests: y'all!
special activities: toast (or villify) Andrew's book
special regular guests:
Wendy "don't start me talking about rooftop solar" Brawer
Leslie "i'm the cool chick who wears sunglasses indoors" Kauffman
Paul "let me tell you about..." Bartlett
Duncan "i'm not as tall as Accra, but i'm tall" Meisel
Ben "I have 7 clones who go to all my activist meetings for me and help me write my books, too" Shepard
Athena "my brain's been through hell and back and could kick your brain's ass!" Soules
Gabriel "I go to more political meetings than Ben's 7 clones" Reichler
Gabriel "I no longer go to more political meetings than Ben's 7 clones, so I may need a new nickname now...”

Beach beneath the streets Greg joined along with neighbor Leslie and  extinction rebelling Julian
As the conversation continued late  into the night. 
Andrew passed out chapters from his book and  talked about the  game of thrones and ever  encroaching climate catastrophes.

All Thursday, I felt them,
Riding my bike to city hall for the final hearings for my beloved community garden.
Elizabeth Street Garden.
A sculpture garden making the city a work of art.
Friends for the  garden.
For the housing.
Screaming at Jim, Margaret C had
Jenny kicked out.
Losing  her mind. 
Watching something she loves taken.
The pro side got inside first.
I registered my opposition to the project.
And watched the divide grow.
We need green space and housing.
Not one over the other.
We need both.
And  we can have it.

Watching  the testimony, I  had a vision of New York becoming a giant shopping mall,
With retail outlets where gardens and community spaces once lived.

On  Monday members of the sunshine movement were getting arrested at the offices of Chuck Schumer pushing him  to  address the climate crisis.

The UK has declared a climate emergency.

And city council in New York is planning to bulldoze gardens.

As I write this, the kids are walking out for the climate emergency. 

Climate emergy actions all week.
Student walkout and civil disobedience.
Photos by Wendy Brawer,
Ken Schles,
and Erik McGregor

Its hard to see the city getting any better through any of this.
Greg visits Atlantic City, where the waves encroach more and more every year.
Yet, city council still wants to pave over green  spaces.


So do I.
Andrew explains:
“With global temperature rise set to blow past the 2°C limit, this life-long activist is thrown into a crisis of hope, and on a quest to find out how leading thinkers and everyday folks alike are grappling with the “impossible news” of our climate doom.
The responses are as diverse as America itself. Defiance: “I’m gonna drown with my boots on!” Self-preservation: “Sure, the apocalypse is gonna happen, but it’s gonna happen to somebody else.” Nihilism: “I’m going to party like it’s 2099.” Faith: “I have kids, hopelessness is not an option.” Pragmatism: “I want a better catastrophe.”
“Should I bring kids into such a world?” “Can I lose hope when others can’t afford to?”
No one, it turns out, is more beset by dread than those most familiar with the facts: the climate scientists and activists themselves. But if catastrophe is truly unavoidable, Boyd asks, what are we actually fighting for?
Maybe another end of the world is possible? Maybe hopelessness can save the world?”


A final  message about the garden:

Thank You! | Email City Council This Weekend

An enormous "Thank You" to everyone who was able to take time out of their busy day yesterday to rally on the steps of City Hall and testify at the New York City Council Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses hearing. Well over a hundred friends and neighbors spoke passionately on behalf of saving Elizabeth Street Garden in its entirety and the win-win solution that our community has proposed that would provide five times as much housing for our seniors while preserving our beloved green open space as a New York City park.

Numbers Count!, Please Email This Weekend

  1. If you were able to attend the hearing but had to leave before you could submit testimony or didn’t have copies to hand out, or
  2. If you were not able to attend but want to make your voice heard,
Please email testimony by 5 p.m. Sunday, May 5 to copy that testimony need not be extensive, simply a few sentences outlining what the Garden means to you!)

Next steps: We’ve reached out to Council Member Chin’s office for the timeline and format for the City Council Land Use Committee meeting and full City Council voting dates and times.

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