Friday, August 16, 2019

[UPDATED] Community gardeners to rally at City Hall Monday over new license agreement

[Dias y Flores Community Garden on 13th Street]


Updated 8/17: The city has extended a deadline for the licensing agreements, and made several changes to the Gardener's Handbook. As a result, the rally has been cancelled. Scoop here.


Community gardeners across NYC are taking to City Hall on Monday morning to rally against what they're calling a new one-sided license agreement to operate their volunteer-run green spaces.

In April, community gardeners received a new four-year license agreement that they say substantially changes the relationship they've enjoyed with the city since 1978.

According to the New York City Community Garden Coalition, the 2019 Community Garden License Agreement and GreenThumb Gardeners’ Handbook contain additional requirements that are burdensome for both parties, and "which will hinder the community outreach and engagement that are hallmarks of community gardens in New York City."

Here's part of a media advisory via Loisaida United Neighborhood Gardens (LUNGS):

Under the new license, GreenThumb becomes an enforcement agency rather than a garden-friendly helpmate. This new license imposes new regulations, restrictions and obligations on garden groups.

It was written by lawyers with no sense of the historical and cultural significance of the gardens and their communities. Now we are being told that we are being allowed to garden on city property and if we don’t like the new license we don’t have to garden.

Gardeners have voiced great concerns. At a Town Hall in May, gardeners voted unanimously to not sign the license. In the past 40 years there has never been widespread opposition to garden licenses.

We have tried to negotiate changes to the license; we want to continue to work toward a better license. But the City is threatening garden groups with a lockout. We have grave concerns about these items in the new license:

• There are three sets of regulations that gardens are required to follow, these regulations are inconsistent, contradictory and confusing.
• Liability issues remain unresolved. The term “Licensee” in the agreement is not defined, what does it mean for the person signing the license on behalf of their community garden?
• Gardens are required to hold two free public events a year but must obtain written permission far in advance from GreenThumb to hold these events.
• Many of the new rules will be impossible to effectively enforce given the size of GreenThumb’s staff. This can only lead to arbitrary, discriminatory enforcement. Gardens will be lost because of developers’ greed not garden infractions.

A recent meeting between the Community Garden Coalition and city officials did net some progress, such as gardeners will once again have the option of allowing dogs into their spaces.

Officials for the Parks Department downplayed any garden drama.

"These renewals happen every four years and always have small changes based on experiences from the previous four year cycle — this cycle is no different," Crystal Howard, assistant commissioner for communications at the Parks Department, recently told amNY.


She said changes include "making the gardens more accessible by keeping them open to the public during the weekend; allowing gardens to host more fundraising events so they can sustain themselves; and increasing safety by asking gardens to coordinate with Green Thumb ahead of planned events."

Monday is the deadline for signing the new license. Patch reported that the Parks Department has told groups that they won't be permitted to continue operating without one. (Patch also noted that nearly 180 gardens have already signed the agreements "out of 353 gardens expected to sign.")

The City Hall rally on Monday starts at 10 a.m.

[Spreading the word one van at a time]

Previously on EV Grieve:
Concern over new GreenThumb regulations for community gardens


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't be surprised if this were a greedy grab by the city government to get more land for big real estate, now that neighborhoods once neglected by the city are desirable places to live again.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting! We must stand together to preserve these vital community spaces. I hope to see many supporters in the community in addition to garden members on Monday. -Amy (EV resident and a community garden member)

Anonymous said...

Yes, that is exactly what we believe they are doing. There are a few smaller gardens that do not have the same stewardship as the larger ones. We predict they will try to grab these first and then slowly go after gardens with larger membership numbers.

Anonymous said...

These gardens should be made open to the public on weekends. This is city property. Ive had unpleasant encounters with people who think this is private property. It is not. These gardens were created in an era when the population was much smaller and there were empty lots and abandoned buildings everywhere. Those days are over. Half of these 'community' gardens are ysed by a small group of connected locals. Build housing on these lots.

cmarrtyy said...

And this is "progressive" government. Can I say it? WHAT A JOKE. Between Ruin-the-EV-Rivera and Death-of-the City de Blasio we're screwed. We have to fight them in the gardens. We have to fight them in our parks. We have to fight them on every issue garbage trucks to redevelopment.... and let them know that ONE PARTY RULE is over. That ONE PARTY RULE turned out to be no better than a Tea-Party Trump government because the only group to benefit are the rich at our expense.

sophocles said...

I don't understand the problem with having two approved public events each year. And are you asking for more staff to enforce the regulations that you are objecting to? That's confusing. Does the city really plan on having three sets of contradictory rules? That's troublesome if true.

noble neolani said...

@11:31 AM

Can you tell us in detail about these "unpleasant encounters". What were you doing to just standing there smelling the roses when someone asked you to leave? I know members from at least 3 community gardens and none of them are anything but welcoming to visitors.

Anonymous said...

there goes the neighborhood again

Anonymous said...

The 2019 Community Garden License Agreement and GreenThumb Gardeners’ Handbook reveals NYC Department of Parks & Recreation’s lack of trust in community gardeners, despite gardeners’ decades of responsible stewardship. The License and Handbook contain additional requirements which are burdensome for both gardeners and GreenThumb, and which will hinder the community outreach and engagement that are hallmarks of 550 community gardens in New York City. The Handbook now contains substantive requirements when it previously gave guidelines to community gardeners. Failure to comply to the rules in Handbook could lead to termination of gardeners’ licenses. Further, these substantive requirements at times conflict with the terms of the License, creating wariness and confusion among gardeners. Parks must reconcile the conflicting contents between the new License and Handbook prior to requiring their adoption.

Frankie V said...

Love to know what real-estate company you work for.

rubygirl said...

Spoken like a shill for developers hiding behind “anonymous”. Which slumlord do you work for?

rubygirl said...

Anonymous said...

When an argument is festooned with adjectives like “burdensome” without specific criticisms, it is a weak argument. There are too many gardens that are treated like private property, giving members keys and not keeping them open during regular hours. One example is the Albert garden on second street, which was treated as a private garden by the caretakers until I complained to the Manhattan land trust. Until I hear substantive, specific provisions of particular provisions of the rules, I will conclude that this is an extension of the attitude of “let us do whatever we want, screw anyone else”.

Anonymous said...

The worst part of the license is a clause which states that community gardens can be closed by the city for any or no reason whatsoever, with no appeals or arbitration process.

Crystal Howard's comments about fundraiser are disingenuous. Prior to this license, there were no limits on fundraisers. This license limits gardens to two fundraisers a year, and, unlike prior licenses, the city now wants a piece of the profits.

Additionally, under this license, gardens would have to request permission for events at least three months in advance, and wait back for written permission. Gardens would also be forbidden to request donations.

Gardens would also need to submit requests in advance to prune, plant, move or remove trees or plants.

Another big issue - liability. There are contradictory statements in the licenses and the handbook as to who could be sued for damages-the garden? The city? The garden board? Just the person who signed the license? The entire membership? The legal language is murky at best.

Basically, the license and the handbook are a means of micro-managing the gardens, and treating the gardeners as if we were low-paid support staff, rather than volunteers who have poured countless hours, expertise, and often our own money into these spaces as a labor of love to foster a sense of community, a safe place for families and neighbors to get to know each other. In this era of climate crisis, these green spaces also act as a support for clean air, carbon sequestration, and help alleviate flood damage as well.

All we, as gardeners, want to do is to keep on doing what we have always been doing, but with this license, that will not be possible.

Anonymous said...

The two events thing is a huge problem for those good actor gardens that host a ton of events, because the notification requirements (tell Big Brother months in advance about your event and how many people you expect and go get a bunch of permits for it on your dime, volunteer gardeners) would pretty much shut down all events.

IMHO this isn't a nefarious land grab but rather idiot city lawyers running amok over wildly inflated liability concerns. It's still a huge problem, putting enormous burdens on unpaid volunteers keeping these green spaces open.

Anonymous said...

Sick of this city doing whatever the fuck it wants. They want every bit of land to have stainless steel benches and perfect structure and rules. Community people run the gardens and it has to be lax. This over-enforcement garbage on everything is so stressful.

Anonymous said...

Albert's garden on 2nd St is not a part of Green Thumb, ergo not part of this conversation.

40 years cyclist said...

The new license makes garden members de facto employees of the city without pay or insurance in case of an accident in the garden. However visitors to the garden are covered by the city’s liability insurance. So for example a large branch falls off a tree and hits a visitor, they are covered. If the branch hits a garden member they are not.

Another issue: the new license prohibits gardens from renting the space to raise money but if you go to the NYCParks web site you’ll find all NYC Parks available for private events, corporate events and film/TV production at very high rental prices.

In fact, the new license prevents almost all fundraising activities but the city provides no funding to replace the loss. Gardens that have created non-profit corporations to help manage the space can no longer run the gardens thru a non-profit. Hypocritically Parks is more than happy to work with non-profits like the Central Park Conservancy which is run by wealthy donors.

The sad fact is that Greenthumb is now headed by an ex-EV garden volunteer.

Unknown said...

Wow so sad to hear of your challenges🤔 I am on the other side of U.S. and starting a private community garden that is for profit on my private property. I wonder what hurdles I will be jumping!

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the City's plan to shot down the whole of the East River Park for several years.
The community gardens are going to be a huge part of preserving green spaces for the community.

james said...

Time to rethink the land usage on some of these small frontage lots many act as private gardens for a select few with keys. The destruction of the 70's left a lot of abandoned and burnt out tenements that were taken down for public safety and temporarily turning them into community gardens to avoid them from becoming dumping grounds for refrigerators,tires,cars and the occasional dead addict made sense.
Well the Times they are a changing we need more residential housing housing in scale with the village housing that is energy efficient fire safe and sin of sin on the tax rolls. Much of the charm in the Village is the buildings built in the 1880's through 1910. But when they have a fire they burn like the tinderboxes they are. We can do things in measured steps forward the past is the past the Fillmore East is gone and Madonna is not moving back to fourth street.

GenesisCommunityGardenBronx said...

My experience is Greenthumb is a mismanaged from the top down political entity staffed by nepotistic insiders who lie, cheat and discriminate to protect their city pension & benefit jobs. Except for a handful of idealists this organization needs its roots pulled and replanted In a Cooperative Community Based Gardner Permaculture Model.