Thirty-Two Community Gardens Turned Over to Local Land Trust

More than a decade after saving scores of community gardens from the auction block, The Trust for Public Land has signed over the deeds to 32 gardens to the Brooklyn-Queens Land Trust, the organizations announced today. To date, TPL has invested more than $4 million in improvements to 69 gardens, which cover nearly eight acres and are worth more than $7 million.

“The Trust for Public Land didn’t just buy the gardens, we embarked on a process with neighborhoods to help ensure the gardens’ permanence, long-term stewardship, and importance in a network of New York City public open space,” said Andy Stone, director of The Trust for Public Land’s Parks for People–New York City program. “We are thrilled to place the garden lands in the caring hands of the people who tend to them.”

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, in a 1999 agreement with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s administration, saved 62 community gardens from a city auction and eventual destruction, purchasing them for $3 million. The city subsequently donated an additional five gardens to TPL for preservation. TPL also purchased two additional gardens, for a total of 69.

“This is truly a great day for the Brooklyn-Queens Land Trust. BQLT gardeners will never forget that The Trust for Public Land stepped up to the plate and saved community gardens from being auctioned off,” said Demetrice Mills, BQLT board president. “The transfer of deeds for the BQLT organization is proof of the confidence The Trust for Public Land has in BQLT as an organization, its board, and volunteers. For the more than 500 gardeners, ownership means so much to those who took care of the land and their neighborhoods for many years. This gives all of us a great sense of pride.”

TPL has worked with local gardeners to establish three new nonprofit organizations to ultimately own and manage the gardens, The Bronx and Manhattan Land Trusts and the Brooklyn-Queens Land Trust. Collectively, the three land trusts will protect more community gardens than any private, non-profit in the nation.

“This is an outstanding achievement for BQLT,” added Mills. “A big ‘Thank You’ to all who have volunteered their time and effort, and who have participated in making this day happen.”

Forty of the gardens are situated in districts where most live farther than 10-minutes from a public green space, according to New Yorkers For Parks. A 2009 GrowNYC survey details that 80 percent of New York City community gardens grow food, and the most popular are tomatoes, sweet peppers, beans, eggplants, and cucumbers.

“For many neighborhoods, these compact spaces splash color and breathe fresh air into crowded neighborhoods throughout the city, and give hundreds of families places to play, dig in the dirt, and grow fresh food,” added Stone. “We are grateful to the community gardeners, the volunteer land trust board members, and our generous funders for their enduring commitments to preserving these gardens forever.”

For example, the Clifton Place Community Garden at 289-91 Grand Avenue in Brooklyn was started in 1991 as a cleaning project in cooperation with two block associations. Enrique Alie, former gardener and current co-chairperson at Clifton Place Garden, has been involved since the beginning.

“I was fortunate to have been part of that positive effort. In 1999 The Trust for Public Land saved the gardens in Brooklyn and Queens from a citywide auction, and ours was one of them. Because of the changing demographics and high demand for garden space in our area, even I had to give up my garden box recently. I miss it, but I will work hard with the gardeners contributing in other ways. Through out contacts we have been able to bring chefs and amateur cooks to the garden to demonstrate cooking with herbs and vegetables,” said Alie. “After September 11, the garden became a place for healing and the local community started to get younger. Now there’s more entertainment and teaching gardening to children.”

Alie is stepping down as chairperson this year, but he will remain active. “We would like to invite children into the garden as early possible so it becomes second nature.”

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, TPL has helped protect 3 million acres nationwide. TPL depends on the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations.