63 NYC Community Gardens Saved

New York, NY, 5/14/1999: An important deal was made today when the Trust for Public Land saved 63 community gardens from a public auction by purchasing the properties for a total of $3 million. Through the deal with TPL, the City of New York agreed to pull all 113 garden sites from the scheduled May 14 auction and will transfer ownership of the remaining 50 gardens to (Bette Midler’s) New York Restoration Project for a purchase price of $1.2 million.

“We are pleased to have been able to acquire these gardens, and are deeply grateful to the many foundations and individuals who moved mountains to make the deal financially feasible,” said Rose Harvey, Senior Vice President of the Trust for Public Land. “We also owe a tremendous debt to our colleagues in the conservation community for standing with us, and getting us to this point of success,” she said.

Tempering the celebratory mood surrounding the deal, however, Harvey added, “As a deal it is a good one, but as public policy it sets an unwelcome precedent. This agreement will only be a true victory if it marks the end of private garden purchases, and the beginning of a new public effort to protect additional open space in under-served communities.”

The deal also marks the beginning of an extended commitment by TPL, which will own the gardens during what is expected to be a 1-2 year holding period. TPL stresses that the fact that they will oversee the gardens will not change the unique aspects of individual gardens that have made them successful for so many years.

According to Andy Stone, Director of the New York City Program for TPL, the acquired sites will continue to be managed as they are now by community residents. “Although we have a long history of working in many of these gardens, TPL will only be acting as an interim land trust, and will work with the leaders of the gardens to constitute a series of new multi-neighborhood land trusts to own and operate these sites permanently,” said Stone. “The purchase of gardens by TPL will enable the dedicated volunteers who have successfully cultivated flowers, vegetables and community relationships over the years to continue to do so, only without the danger of losing these precious open spaces.”

The sites purchased by TPL will be used in perpetuity for open space purposes. TPL’s agreement with the City stipulates that discussion will begin immediately regarding the preservation of additional sites which have previously been approved for auction through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization that conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in our communities and to protect our natural and historic resources for future generations. Founded in 1972, and based in San Francisco, TPL specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiation, public finance, and law to protect land for people. To date, TPL has protected more than one million acres of land nationwide valued at $1.4 billion. Working with private landowners, communities and government agencies, TPL has helped preserve nearly 1,700 special places around the country.

Established in 1978, the New York City Program is the Trust for Public Land’s oldest and largest urban initiative. Over the past 20 years the program has helped gain permanent protection for more than 300 acres of scarce city land, and has provided organizational, outreach, real estate and construction assistance to hundreds of community groups. TPL’s programs focus on three main areas: helping to create and sustain community-managed parks, playgrounds and community gardens in the City’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods, providing environmental education to New York’s young people, and conserving our remaining natural areas for future generations to enjoy.