Mayor's Office Press Release #247-02
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEMAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG AND ATTORNEY GENERAL ELIOT SPITZER ANNOUNCE AGREEMENT TO ENABLE CONSTRUCTION OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND PRESERVATION OF GREENTHUMB GARDENS
September 18, 2002
Ed Skyler / Megan Sheekey (212) 788-2958
Juanita Scarlett (Attorney General) (212) 416-8060
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer today announced an agreement that will enable the City to proceed with plans for the construction of more than 3,000 units of affordable housing while preserving almost 200 GreenThumb gardens and increasing the protection of almost 200 gardens, thus raising the number of protected gardens in the City to 500. This agreement allows for the construction of critical affordable housing and other community facilities on City property. The process will ensure that existing gardens are considered in City land use decisions and that gardens on property being developed will be offered alternate gardening space, where available. The agreement resolves a three-year-old lawsuit over the development of City-owned property containing community gardens. The Mayor and Attorney General were joined by Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Jerilyn Perine, Counsel to the Attorney General David Nocenti, Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo and First Assistant Jeffrey D. Friedlander, whose office negotiated the settlement.
"This comprehensive agreement benefits all New York City residents," said Mayor Bloomberg. "It allows much-needed affordable housing development to move forward - providing construction jobs and a boost to our City's economy. In addition, we are providing permanent protection to hundreds of community gardens throughout New York City, and establishing a fair process for reviewing future proposals to develop other garden properties. I would like to thank Attorney General Spitzer and his staff, as well as the Jeffrey Friedlander and his team at the City's Law Department, for their efforts in helping to reach this agreement. I think this agreement strikes the right balance between building for the future and preserving precious open space."
"Since the day this lawsuit was filed, I have asserted that New York City residents need affordable housing and community gardens, and this settlement proves that they can indeed have both," said Attorney General Spitzer. "We need to preserve as much green space as possible, while at the same time allowing for development where appropriate. I applaud Mayor Bloomberg for recognizing that these two goals are not mutually exclusive, and for saving so many community gardens, which are a vibrant part of the City's neighborhoods."
"I am pleased that the City can address the housing shortage with more than 3,000 new homes and apartments for working families and low-income senior citizens, which now can move forward," HPD Commissioner Jerilyn Perine, whose agency promotes quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers.
"The Parks Department is pleased that a settlement has been reached that will both provide neighborhoods with new housing opportunities and preserve community green spaces," said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. "Under the agreement, a significant number of community gardens will remain open to provide horticultural oases and recreational space for New Yorkers. The Parks Department already manages nearly 100 community gardens and offers support to hundreds more through our GreenThumb Program. We look forward to helping more gardens flourish throughout the City."
The agreement includes the following components:
- Housing Development Immediately.The City can move forward with the development of 2,319 units of affordable housing. Plans for an additional 710 units can proceed. A total of 153 GreenThumb sites may be returned to residential use.
- Gardens That Are To Be Protected.The City will offer 198 sites to the Parks Department and/or to not-for-profit land trust organizations for preservation as community gardens or as open space. 197 gardens that were already preserved will be granted additional protection and the City will not seek to develop 100 gardens maintained by the Department of Education, raising the number of preserved gardens to 495.
- Garden Review Process.The agreement establishes a garden review process that will provide detailed information about each garden planned for development during the public review process for the proposed development. The agreement also provides for the relocation of a garden to an alternate site if available when a garden is developed.
- City To Offer Licenses.Gardeners will be offered licenses to operate gardens, and the GreenThumb Program will be continued.
Established in 1978, GreenThumb is the nation's largest urban gardening program, assisting neighborhood groups in the creation and maintenance of community gardens. GreenThumb was initiated in response to the City's severe financial crisis during the 1970's, which resulted in a serious loss of population and housing in neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. GreenThumb gardens were interim land-uses for vacant City-owned land.
Since the inception of the program, 86 gardens have been preserved through formal acquisition by the Parks Department while the City has sought to develop other gardens for housing. A lawsuit was filed in May 1999 by the Attorney General to stop the auctioning of community gardens to developers; a settlement resulted in the purchase and preservation of 111 gardens by the Trust for Public Land and Bette Midler's New York Restoration Project.
In February 2000, the Attorney General obtained a further injunction preventing the City from selling or developing 351 GreenThumb gardens. That order remained in effect until today's settlement. This agreement preserves 198 more gardens, and grants additional protection to 197, while 153 may be used for housing. In addition, the City will not seek to develop the 100 gardens under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education, raising the total of protected gardens to 495.