Download From the Ground Up: Community Gardens in New York City and the Politics of Spatial Transformation PDF

TitleFrom the Ground Up: Community Gardens in New York City and the Politics of Spatial Transformation
File Size2.4 MB
Total Pages219
Table of Contents
List of Figures, Maps and Table
1 A Garden in the City: A History of Uneven Urban Development and Redevelopment
Part I: Cultivating a New Individual: Life,Needs, Desires
	2 A Place in their Image
	3 Determining Space, Creating Opportunities
Part II: The Spring of the Commons
	4 The Formation of the Collective
	5 Actually Existing Commons
Part III: Reaped Politicization
	6 Rooting Politics: The Institution ofCommunity Gardens
	7 Setting the Ground for “Organic Residents”
Document Text Contents
Page 2


Page 109

From the Ground Up98

level to raise public awareness and galvanize the public, green organizations,
and the city council in favor of the gardens. Rene tells how La Familia Verde
gardens coalition was established in the Crotona neighborhood. The story suggests
how the threat to the gardens brought people together to form a group as well as
articulating the importance and value of community gardens to the neighborhood
for themselves and for the greater community:

Back in 1998, that was when the Giuliani Administration started [to] auction
off gardens; everybody was scrambling to find out which gardens were up for
auction, which gardens are going to be taken away in their neighborhood. So I’m
in community board 6, there were about four to five gardens that were on the
auction list. But the thing that was so unique about our community board is that
our community board is pro open space, pro gardens. So, it was very important
at the time to first of all galvanize those gardeners that were on that list, but also
to galvanize those gardeners that were not on the list. Because you can’t lie on
your back and say, “I’m safe now.” No, because just like they felt they were safe,
the same thing can happen to you the next day. So it is important to show unity
and strength and that all the gardens in the area start sending out pamphlets:
let’s meet together, let’s form a coalition, let’s fight this because we can’t fight it
alone, let’s fight it as a group. And that is what happened. Green Guerillas was
very instrumental in helping us in terms of organizing it; not organizing it but
helping us in terms of strategizing. First of all we got our meeting place, and
then we talked about what we are going to do, and then we came with a name,
how we are going to call ourselves, and then we came with a mission statement,
and then we had weekly meetings finding out what is going on. And then as a
group, as a La Familia Verde group, we went to the community board and said
this is who we are; this is what we have done to the people in the community;
this is how we contributed to the progress of things; this is what we have done
to help our community. What can you do to help us?26

Neighborhood coalitions serve as a link between the local garden groups and the
“global” citywide struggle. The need for this link diminished to some degree when
the settlement was signed in 2002 between the city and the gardens. However, many
neighborhood coalitions kept on going and currently serve as a supportive network
to the gardens, connecting the gardens with the various supporting organizations,
and dealing with local problems. Marvin, a coordinator in the Harlem coalition,
explains how the settlement changed the dynamic of his neighborhood coalition:

What I found out is that during the struggle it was important for everybody to
work together and everybody was united. But with the legislation those persons
who got their garden secured, they couldn’t care less about everybody else. So
what happened, our coalition was about 25 to 30 different gardens and we had in

26 Interview, November 2, 2006, Crotona, the Bronx.

Page 110

The Formation of the Collective 99

every meeting about 20 gardens represented, maybe 30 people in every meeting
and since the legislation we have maybe 10 [in the meetings and] about maybe
12 [gardens as part of the coalition].27

The Harlem United Gardens (HUG) coalition is still very active with networking,
fundraising, and organizing social events for the gardens in East Harlem. In 2007
having this functioning body proved crucial when Harlem gardens were threatened
again. HUG (with the help of other organizations, such as More Gardens! and
Time’s Up!) orchestrated a publicly covered struggle over the 20-year-old Nueva
Esperanza community garden. Gardeners challenged the approval and financial
support ($12 million) that the city handed to the plan to develop the site of Nueva
Esperanza on East 110 Street for a museum of African art. They argued that the
museum was a pacifier for the local community and a cover-up for the 116 luxury
units in the tower on the corner of Central Park above the museum. In the last
months of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 gardeners and activists were encamping
full-time in the garden and using other methods to raise public and political support
for Nueva Esperanza and the other endangered gardens in East Harlem.

Several organizations, most notably More Gardens! and Green Guerillas,
are working closely with neighborhood coalitions citywide, helping them solve
problems pertaining to their neighborhoods and further facilitate their organization.
Green Guerillas, for instance, has been helping the now thriving East New York
Gardens Association (representing 50 gardens in the Brooklyn neighborhood).
Recently, Green Guerillas established a branch in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn,
a neighborhood abundant with community gardens that is going through
intensified gentrification and demographic changes. More Gardens! was located
in the South Bronx and worked closely with the Bronx United Gardens coalition
to develop a plan that will be more sustainable for gardens in the course of the
neighborhood development. In 2006–07 More Gardens! relocated its base to
East Harlem to work together with HUG to struggle for the over 20 endangered
gardens within a 1-mile radius.

The contemporary role of coalitions in the neighborhoods is further discussed
in Part III as their actions are usually more focused on branching out of the realm
of the garden(s) to include other community organizations and to propel what I
refer to as the institutionalization of community gardens.

The Citywide Body of Gardeners

The next unit of the collective is the body of gardeners in New York City. This unit
is much more dispersed than the previous two and therefore harder to demarcate.
The New York City Community Gardens Coalition (NYCCGC) represents the
most salient effort to clearly establish a representative unit of gardens citywide.
It was established in 1996 and has operated since then with changing degrees of

27 Interview, November 22, 2004, Harlem, Manhattan.

Page 218

Index 207

Linn Jack 63
Little Sisters of the Assumption 77–8
Liz Christy Community Gardens,

Manhattan 20
Loring, John 70–1

Manhattan community gardens 24–5
Manhattan Land Trust 64
Mark-Viverito, Melissa 153
Marx, Karl 9, 48–9, 75
median gross rent and community

gardens 30
median household annual income

and community gardens 28
Melrose neighborhood, Bronx 162
Midler, Bette 68
More Gardens! Coalition 99, 127,

151, 154–5, 162, 168
murals 45

Neighborhood Open Space Coalition
(NOSC) NGO 150

neoliberalization/neoliberal strategy
5–6, 141

“new localism” 6
New York City Community Gardens

Coalition (NYCCGC) 77,
90, 99–100, 102, 128, 135,
149–50, 155–6, 160, 162,
164–6, 169–72, 177

history of 145
mission of 147

New York Gardeners’ Annual Forum
2, 148–9, 155, 162–5, 167,
172–5, 178

New York Gardens’ Settlement (2002)
23–4, 73

New York Restoration Project (NYRP)
21–2, 68–75, 87, 108, 150, 169

New York State Attorney General 21, 147,
160, 163–4

New York State Department of
Agriculture and Markets 164–5

New Yorkers for Parks 150
NY Latino Journal 112–13

“objectification” 48, 56, 81
Ocean Hill Neighborhood, Brooklyn 28

oeuvre 12, 75
Operation Green Thumb 20–3, 32,

52–4, 62–3, 87–9, 100, 117–18,
168–9, 172–5

“organic residents” 175–88
ownership 59–63, 90, 187

collective 65, 74, 104, 107–9
of gardens 60–1, 67–8, 74, 107, 168
sense of (psychological ownership)

13, 15, 59–63, 68, 71–2, 74–6,
88, 107, 110, 181, 191–2

renter-occupied units/home renters
25, 29–31, 61, 90, 133–4, 136

Parker, Sarah Jessica 70
Parks Advocacy Day 163
Parks and Recreation Department 62, 88,

107, 150
“personalizers” in community gardens 44
place attachment concept 35
place making concept 36
Pleasant Park Community Garden,

Harlem 71
Polanyi, Karl 141
“prefigurations” 194
“prescription” 47, 102
production of space

hegemonic/dominant 5, 7, 12
reconstruction of past landscapes

social 9–10, 37–8, 75, 183, 191
see also Lefebvre, Henri

Project Harmony, Manhattan 119
“property regime” 9, 64, 105, 182

Reclaim the Streets 105, 190
renter-occupied units 25, 29, 31, 61
resilience practices 8–9, 13, 80–1,

137, 141
resistance practices 8–9, 80–1, 124,

152, 183
reworking practices 8–9, 14, 137–8, 183
“right to the city” 9–12, 14, 105, 139,

186–7, 190, 192
Rincón Criollo Cultural Center, South

Bronx 111–12

Schumpeter, Joseph 22

Page 219

From the Ground Up208

sense of place 36
Slow Food 151
social class 19, 101, 133, 135–6

construction of 122, 133, 136
formation 133, 136

South Melrose, Bronx community
garden 162–3

abstract 9–10, 116, 182, 193
enclosure of 4, 105
as infrastructure 101–2
lived/relational space: gardens

as carriers of culture 109–16
material/absolute space 106–9,

and political consciousness 182
of resistance/contested 5, 161, 184
representations of 116–17
triadic facets of 10
value of 5, 7, 9, 12, 60, 64, 89–90,

106, 109, 116, 128, 138, 140,
182–3, 186, 192

spatial practice 102
“spatial turn” 3
Spitzer, Eliot 21, 163–5
State office of community gardens,

New York 165, 171
Stone, Edie 53
structure of community gardens

citywide body of gardeners 99–101
garden groups 91–5, 96–7
membership 32, 95–6
neighbourhood coalitions 97–9

Suffolk Street Community Garden,
Manhattan 69–70

Times Square, New York City 19
Time’s Up! organization 99, 151,

153–4, 184
Tragedy of the Commons 104
Trust for Public Land (TPL) 21–2,

64–8, 73–5, 87, 92, 94, 107–9,
136, 150, 168

uneven urban development 25, 29, 61, 79,
122, 128, 139, 160, 170, 175, 191

Uniform Land Use Review Procedure
(ULURP) 22, 97, 147, 153, 166

Urban Food Systems Program 165

“victory gardens” 17

“war gardens” 17
Weber, Max 133
“welfare to work” program 115

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