Local elected officials, led by State Sen. Brad Hoylman and City Councilmember Carlina Rivera, are calling on the Parks Department to resolve outstanding issues in the latest proposed GreenThumb licensing agreements.
By one estimate, nearly 100 community gardens on city-owned land are in danger of closing or relocating due to the ongoing dispute over the licensing agreement from the department's GreenThumb program.
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."
There hasn't been any progress made with negotiations, and the Parks Department has told groups that they won't be permitted to continue operating without signing the new licensing agreement.
In the letter to Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver dated Oct. 10 and made public yesterday, elected officials encouraged the Parks Department to return to the negotiating table with community garden leaders and reach a fair deal for gardeners that allows them to continue operating with a neighborhood-led approach.
Per the letter:
"Under the proposed license ... GreenThumb becomes an agent of enforcement rather than a garden-friendly working partner. The 2019 Community Garden License Agreement and GreenThumb Gardeners’ Handbook contains new burdensome requirements that could hinder the community outreach and engagement that is a hallmark of community gardens in New York City."
"City Hall’s attempt to change GreenThumb licensing agreements ... threatens the ongoing operation of our community gardens," Hoylman said in a statement released yesterday. "Commissioner Silver and the Parks Department must revise this licensing agreement so we can preserve these vital community spaces for years to come."
Said Rivera: "It is critical, that as we begin to recognize and address the decades of environmental injustice and racism, our city does not turn its back on the one area of environmental independence our minority communities have grown and fostered — our community gardens."
Aside from Hoylman and Rivera, the elected officials who joined the letter were: U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler, U.S. Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez, State Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, State Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick, State Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, State Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, State Assembly Member Dan Quart, State Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal, City Council Member Margaret Chin, and City Council Member Helen Rosenthal.
Find a copy of the letter at this link.
Officials for the Parks Department have 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, previously told amNY.
Previously on EV Grieve:
Concern over new GreenThumb regulations for community gardens
Community gardeners to rally at city hall over remaining issues with new license agreement