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Community Gardens Lawsuit Settles

On September 17, 2002, Mayor Bloomberg and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced a settlement to the longstanding lawsuit that the AG’s office brought against the City in 1999 in response to the Giuliani administration’s plan to auction off more than 100 community gardens. The nearly 700 GreenThumb gardens throughout New York City have been under an injunction for the past several years, pending the outcome of this lawsuit.

The settlement agreement essentially splits the baby. Nearly 200 previously unprotected gardens will be offered to the Department of Parks and Recreation or to a private land trust for continued use as community gardens. One hundred and ten (110) gardens will be sold or developed by the City, and development projects for another 28 gardens that were approved prior to the lawsuit will commence immediately. Going forward, gardeners whose sites are slated for development will be notified in advance, and if the development proposal is approved, they will be offered alternate lots nearby, although there is some concern whether the window of opportunity for accepting an alternate site is too short to be a viable option. In addition, developers will be required to produce a Garden Review Statement as part of their development proposal, providing background information on the community garden.

The Municipal Art Society applauds the Mayor and Attorney General for working together productively to break the deadlock between community gardeners and housing developers. The MAS has long battled against the misperception that community gardens and housing are mutually exclusive, contending that both needs can be addressed and balanced. This settlement goes a long way toward striking such a balance, but supplementary legislation in City Council is needed to fill in the gaps and clarify some of the settlement’s fuzzier provisions.