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Thread: New York Restoration Project - Community Gardens

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    Default New York Restoration Project - Community Gardens

    I couldn't find a neat place to fit this into, and thought Bette Midler's efforts with her New York Restoration Project deserved a thread of its own anyway.

    Some of us, of course, will always remember Maggie's Garden.


    Bette Midler Whacks Weeds, Taps 50 Cent to Turn New York Green


    Four-time Grammy winner and self- confessed glitz queen Bette Midler enters an East Harlem lot at her characteristic hip-swaying march, swapping the outsize pink feather headdress of her Las Vegas show for gardening gloves.

    Midler is here to open a community garden next to an abandoned tenement, the 33rd oasis her New York Restoration Project has transformed from garbage-strewn wasteland.

    “I always say get the trash off the streets and onto the stage where it belongs,” said Midler in an interview after snipping a garland to open the lush, green space.

    Celebrities may start charities on a whim and drop by for a photo-op or two, but Midler has been helping clean up New York for more than a decade, raising funds and spurring clean-and- green programs throughout the city.

    The star of films including “Ruthless People” and “Beaches” got her start crooning at gay bathhouses and performing as a mermaid in a wheelchair. She said she became involved in improving New York parks in 1994 because she was appalled at how dirty the city was compared to her native Hawaii.
    “To tell the truth, I’m not the greatest gardener in the world,” said Midler after inspecting nature-game tables and a child-sized house at the opening. “But I have a tremendous appreciation for nature.”

    She collaborated with neighborhood gardeners who had made derelict areas bloom, adding value to abandoned lots foreclosed by New York City. To avoid an auction of the garden plots, the Restoration Project made a deal to take ownership of dozens of them in 1999.

    Orphaned Gardens

    “We ended up with 51 gardens that were homeless orphans,” Midler said, adding that about 20 still need restoration. With a $6 million annual budget, the Restoration Project now partners with the city in a massive street-tree planting program that Midler said is 20 percent ahead of schedule this year.

    The Harlem project, on East 117th Street, is part of a move into improving children’s education. Midler called it “a learning garden.” She introduced Akiima Price, the project’s chief of education, a beaming young woman with a six-foot snake slithering around her neck. Midler said Price’s job was to allay city kids’ “terror of being in nature.”

    The Restoration Project has grown by partnering with communities, and persuading foundations, retailers and financial corporations to help improve neighborhoods their officers may never have heard of.

    Home Depot Help

    The Home Depot Foundation sponsored the 117th Street garden. The Arbor Day Foundation shaped the education program. Residents of the block and East Harlem Cares will maintain the garden and run its programs.

    “Kids from all over the neighborhood will be able to get their hands dirty, will be able to meet animals, and learn how things grow,” said Midler.

    Midler has used her star power to wrangle celebrities from Martha Stewart and Tony Bennett to rapper 50 Cent for fundraising and garden sponsorships. She’s involved well-known landscape designers including Ken Smith, Walter Hood, and Lynden Miller.

    A stretch of the Harlem River has been restored to a natural state as Swindler Cove Park and the Restoration Project is now working on a master plan for the entire river. Swindler Cove Park features a brightly painted boathouse designed by Robert A. M. Stern with Armand LeGardeur.
    “Rowing is the kind of sport that gets you into a good college,” said Midler. After the opening and a fundraiser, the gardening gloves are off and the pink-feather headdress is on for her show at Caesars Palace. “Yes, I’m a glitz queen,” she said, smiling.

    Tree Planting

    The gardens are not feel-good marketing opportunities parachuted into neighborhoods. The Harlem garden, for example, began two years ago with a street-tree planting effort with the city and AmeriCorps.

    “We do a lot of outreach in communities and find out what they’re looking for,” Midler said. “Every community and block is different.”

    While many have garden plots, others have kids’ play spaces, performance stages, “or just a place for people to kick up their feet.” A couple are solar powered, and others collect rainwater from the roof of adjacent buildings for plant watering.

    “One has an area for yoga, so now the whole neighborhood comes out and does yoga,” Midler said in a note of wonder. “This is a very different city from what it was 10 or 15 years ago.”

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?p...d=aVQpALL00lRw

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    New Rules Worry Community Garden Advocates

    By COLIN MOYNIHAN


    Tremont Community Garden in the Bronx in 2008.

    New rules being drafted by the city may omit some protections and assurances accorded nearly a decade ago to hundreds of community gardens scattered across the five boroughs.

    The proposed rules, which are not finalized but are being written by the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, are meant to replace a 2002 agreement between the city and the New York State attorney general’s office that helped bring an end to years of contentious court battles and public protests revolving around the future of the gardens.

    That agreement, which is set to expire in September, ended a lawsuit in which the attorney general’s office sought to stop the Giuliani administration from selling city-owned gardens to developers and led to the preservation of hundreds of gardens.

    Several drafts of the new rules describe a process to develop gardens that is similar to the process in the existing agreement. But the drafts and the current agreement also differ significantly. The drafts, for example, do not contain language guaranteeing the continuation of gardens preserved by the existing agreement. And while the existing agreement states that “the city represents that it has no present intention of selling or developing” other gardens, such assurances do not appear in the drafts.

    Consequently, some gardeners said, the draft rules would appear to make all gardens equally eligible for development, regardless of current status.

    “This would be a policy change from preservation to the ability to develop,” said Aresh Javadi of the New York City Community Garden Coalition, who said he was planning to meet with officials to ask that the city make all GreenThumb gardens permanent. “We want to work with them to achieve a fruitful agreement that gives Parks gardens a safe and protected environment.”

    Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner, said that in drawing up new rules, the city had to consider the interests of both gardeners and non-gardeners. There were no plans to develop parks department gardens, he said, but he noted that community gardens were always considered temporary.

    “The gardens have really thrived over the last eight years, but the city has to maintain its options,” he said, adding: “There is a great deal of support that the city provides to the gardens and the gardeners and we are going to continue that.”

    In an e-mail message, Eric Bederman, the press secretary for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development wrote that the agency had been working “to draft new rules with the aim of closely mirroring the original settlement agreement, which balanced the dual needs for affordable housing and community gardens.”

    Gardeners said they expected the proposed rules to be published soon in the City Record, with a public hearing to follow.

    Under the 2002 agreement, the city preserved 198 community gardens in the parks department’s GreenThumb program, increased the protection of 197 other gardens and agreed not to develop 100 gardens maintained by the Department of Education. About 150 gardens were designated for sale and development as part of the deal.

    The agreement helped heal rifts resulting from a rancorous series of events that unfolded after the city transferred control of hundreds of gardens to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development in 1998 and placed many on the auction block. Denunciations, demonstrations and arrests followed.

    City officials said it was necessary to build on the garden sites to help ease a housing shortage. Gardeners and their allies disagreed, saying that plenty of unused lots were available for construction and that the verdant gardens, run by volunteers and open to the public, provided a valuable refuge.

    Perhaps the most intense clash came in February 2000 when city workers bulldozed the Esperanza Garden on East Seventh Street while lawyers for the attorney general’s office were arguing in court that the garden should remain untouched. More than 100 people hoping to stave off the bulldozer barricaded themselves in the garden overnight, but the police dismantled their defenses, arrested some and dispersed others.

    At the time, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said the site would be used for moderately priced housing. The company that got the lot built a development there called Eastville Gardens, where some apartments have been listed at more than $3,000 per month.

    Given the history, some gardeners said they felt uncertain about the future because there was little in the drafts to prevent lots from being sold.

    “They’re greasing the wheels for development,” said Harry Bubbins, a Bronx gardener, who said he and others had outlined legislation that they hoped would be sponsored by City Council members and would designate gardens as parkland and forbid building upon them.

    Peter Cramer, a founder of the Petit Versailles garden on East Houston Street, said he was concerned that the new rules might open the door to build upon the lot, near Avenue C, where he and others hauled away garbage and auto parts in 1996, which they replaced with trees and flowering plants.

    “Are we preserved,” he wondered on Monday. “Or are we not preserved?”

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/20...s/#more-193489

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    Maybe another Maggie's Garden in the making? Let's hope so.



    East Villagers Want to Replace Rats With a Sculpture Garden

    Neighbors have banded together to pitch a plan for the derelict E. First Street lot that includes a sculpture garden.

    By Patrick Hedlund







    EAST VILLAGE — Rats usually aren't the kind of critters that inspire art.

    But for the residents of small co-op building on East First Street, their rodent neighbors have done just that.

    A group of tenants on the block have been increasing their efforts to transform a vacant, city-owned lot near Second Avenue into a community sculpture garden as a way to enliven the derelict property — and run out the rats that have made their home there.

    Their project, called First Street Green, aims to convert the abandoned site into a community-based cultural space by exploring ways to reclaim the property that has sat dormant for decades and become a haven for the unsightly vermin.

    The plan grew out of frustration among co-op tenants over having to deal with the rat nuisance and the accompanying city violations that wound up on their doorstep, despite the fact that the lot is owned by the city Parks Department.

    “About two years ago, fed up with the whole process, we came up with an idea to turn it into a garden or a park — to shoot high,” said Scott Pfaffman, 55, a former resident of the co-op at 35 E. First St., who owned an art gallery on the ground floor that closed after 9/11.

    When that same storefront recently became vacant, the co-op reopened it as a community art gallery and began selling donated works to help fund the project.

    A June 25 benefit — which saw members of the Lower Eastside Girls Club decorate the fence in front of the lot with colorful rat cutouts — raised more than $2,000, Pfaffman said.

    “We had something to rally around,” he noted of the fundraiser. “It really lifted everybody’s spirits. Frankly, that may be the major benefit of a project like this. We have to keep our morale up, especially these days.”

    The project’s main proponents, including nearly all the tenants of the 10-unit co-op building, also received help from a pair of local architects who donated design plans for how the space could function.

    A preliminary rendering of the site features a community center at street level, with an above-ground sculpture garden and green space running along its roof — an ambitious plan that supporters say would take many years and millions of dollars.

    “We have to be open-minded, the ideas could change,” said Ann Shostrom, 59, an artist who’s lived in the co-op since 1986. “It’s been nice to be kind of casual and have people who have energy and expertise” contribute to the project.

    The Parks Department has been receptive to the idea so far, and is even working to renovate a rundown ribbon of parkland along the north side of Houston Street that connects to the vacant lot, Shostrom said.

    “We understand that the community is currently raising funds and further developing their proposal,” Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson said. “We look forward to reviewing it once it is submitted to us.”

    But before the group’s grand vision can be realized, the main issue remains removing the “rat warren” that has developed in the rubble beneath the paved-over lot.
    “If you had some sort of a building there taking up the space below, it would be better for the rat situation,” Shostrom said.

    The group is next planning to certify First Street Green as a nonprofit organization, and will host poetry readings and screenings at the gallery space to further outreach and fundraising efforts.

    Until then, the group is hoping that some art-minded benefactors may get behind the project.

    “New York is full of civic-minded people who love art and love parks, and we might get lucky,” Shostrom said.

    “It can happen. It takes time and it takes a lot of effort, but it’s possible.”

    http://dnainfo.com/20100707/manhatta...#ixzz0t9v26GFI

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    Padlocked Garden Over Lincoln Tunnel Getting New Life as a Park

    By Jill Colvin

    The Port Authority plans to turn an abandoned garden on West 34th Street into a community park.







    MIDTOWN — A greenspace atop the Lincoln Tunnel overpass that has grown mainly weeds and cobwebs since the death of its legendary gardener is finally on its way to becoming a community park.

    Before Alice Parsekian died in January at the age of 86, the small garden huddled between two concrete walls on W. 34th Street between Ninth and Tenth avenues had been a neighborhood gem.

    Numerous newspapers wrote about the garden's ever-blooming peonies, irises and lilac trees that were tended to by the Parsekian, who was also known around the neighborhood for hauling around a paintbrush and paint cans, fixing up mailboxes and fire hydrants, and removing posters from lampposts along the quiet stretch.

    “She was a one-woman neighborhood-improvement committee,” one neighbor was quoted as saying in The Villager newspaper's obituary.

    But since Parsekian's death, the garden, which is owned by the Port Authority, has stood padlocked. It is now overrun by weeds and rats and littered with trash.

    fully story


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    New Rules Give More Protection to Community Gardens

    by MELANIE GRAYCE WEST

    After a season of some uncertainty for the city's community gardeners, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has released the final version of rules that will formalize the registration and licensing procedures for the roughly 300 gardens located on city land.

    Key to the final rules is a provision that garden lots will be "preserved as gardens" as long as they are registered and licensed by the Parks Department.

    The clause, which city officials say is the closest that rules can come to providing protection for the gardens, was a key concession to gardeners who ultimately want gardens to be permanent. The city has sought to maintain its jurisdiction over the spaces, should they be needed someday for different uses, and retains title to the lots.

    "When we first saw the [proposed] rules and regulations, we were very dissatisfied," said Karen Washington, president of the New York City Community Garden Coalition, the main organizing body for the city's gardeners. The final rules leave the gardeners feeling "very pleased" but "it's still a work in progress" she said, as gardeners mobilize for legislation at the city and state level that will protect the patches permanently.

    "If we have concrete legislation at the city and statewide levels then we can claim 100 percent victory," said Ms. Washington.

    "There was a lot of misconception about the intent of the rules," said Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe during a news conference held Monday at the William B. Washington Memorial garden in Harlem. "What we had to do is get to the heart of the language, work with the lawyers and work with the gardeners," he said, to "strengthen the language of the rules and clarify specific protections."

    The Parks Department and gardeners squared off over several provisions in the draft rules that were released in August and gardeners turned out in force for a raucous public hearing last month.

    Among the top requests by gardeners and their allies, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, was the need for officials to provide notices and information in multiple languages, provisions for the establishment of new gardens and a timeline for failing gardens to remedy problems or find new leadership.

    In the revised rules, the Parks Department says it will "attempt" to provide notices in other languages and says that "new gardens may be created and will have the same protections as existing gardens." Failing gardens will be given nine months to turn around.

    The new rules go into effect in 30 days. They replace a 2002 deal brokered by the state attorney general's office and Mayor Michael Bloomberg that is set to officially expire on Sept. 17.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...912293430.html

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    Finding Inspiration in LES Gardens


    9th Street & Avenue C Community Garden & Park.

    As we reported a few minutes ago, the NYC Parks Department has agreed today to strengthen protections for the city’s community gardens. An earlier version of proposed rule changes did not sit well with many neighborhood activists, who feared the city might be tempted to sell the garden sites to developers.

    Coincidentally, we recently discovered a beautiful (and as it turns out, a very timely) collection of photographs documenting some of the community gardens in and around the Lower East Side. The photos were taken by East Village resident Matthew McDermott, senior writer for treehugger.com and planetgreen.com. We asked Mat to send us some of his favorite photographs from his series and to tell us a little about what inspired him to document the gardens. His story and the photos are featured after the jump:


    La Plaza Cultural, on the corner of Avenue C & East 9th St.

    More photos at the Lo-Down

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    Nice transformation.


    New Flood-Preventing Garden Absorbs 150,000 Gallons a Year

    by Hana R. Alberts



    All photos, except where noted, by Rob Stephenson

    This week the New York Restoration Project cut the ribbon on a completely revamped community garden in Gowanus that could serve as an effective landscaping model for others down the line. The 3,000-foot corner lot, located at the intersection of Carroll Street and Denton Place, is a frequent victim of stormwater runoff and pollutants from the nearby Superfun(d) Gowanus Canal. To help stave off the adverse affects and protect the greenery, NYRP equipped the Gil Hodges Community Garden with what's called high-performance stormwater infrastructure, which are really a bunch of confusingly named but very important things including a bioswale in the nearby sidewalk (a street tree in an enlarged bed with native plants and a low curb), porous pavers, a rain garden, and flood-tolerant plants. In total, these devices will filter, river, and/or otherwise reuse 150,000 gallons of stormwater annually. Fragrance company Jo Malone provided some funding, so in addition to a birch reading grove and a patio there's also a specially designed sweet-smelling walkway lined with flowers whose odor will hopefully overpower the canal's potent one: sweetbay magnolia; ruby spice summersweet; orange azalea; and mountainmint.








    Photo via Stantec.


    Photo via Stantec.






    Photo via Stantec.




    Photo via Stantec.



    The photo above, and the ones that follow, reveal what the garden used to look like.









    Gil Hodges Community Garden [New York Restoration Project]

    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2013/0..._year.php#more

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    The key is maintenence.

    So many of these parks start off really nice, only to be ignored into weedy oblivion.

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    Very nice.


    Willis Ave. Garden Overhaul

    by Zoe Rosenberg





    THE BRONX—The Willis Avenue Community Garden has a whole new look. The Mott Haven space recently underwent a total renovation, which brought a TEN Arquitectos-designed modular casita/performance stage/gathering spot to the community space that also doubles as a crisis center (should the next big storm hit). The garden was also replanted, and raised planting beds were installed as were new entrance gates, a pergola, and a shed. The park officially reopened on Thursday, September 18. [CurbedWire inbox]

    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2014/1...ose_street.php

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