Gothamist contributor Christopher Robbins recently asserted how “2013 was not kind to community gardens.” This claim was preceded by a story about how bulldozers ravaged and decimated the informally run but beloved Coney Island community garden earlier this month. For nearly 16 years, the 70,000 square foot garden was shared among community members, and as Robbins explains, “It survived Hurricane Sandy, but not [Brooklyn borough president] Marty Markowitz.”
Was 2013 a bad year for community and urban gardens? If the recent Coney Island incident is any indication, then the answer is a resounding Yes. Furthering this assessment is an incident that took place back in May, in which developers destroyed a portion of a community garden on the Lower East Side, NY, in another example of callous disregard to the neighborhoods that benefit from these green spaces. Locals were outraged when a hired construction crew put up a fence in one portion of the garden, per the orders of developer Serge Hoyda. This Lower East Side green space, known as “The Children’s Magical Garden” has been in operation for more than thirty years, and is beloved to the community that upkeeps it.
It’s easy to see how folks who benefit from community gardens are disheartened and angered when developers threaten to destroy them. After all, these neighborhood green spaces foster communities, encourage teamwork, promote good health and locality, and even offer residents a sense of purpose. Though 2013 was not kind to community gardens in New York City, models of strong and flourishing community gardens cropped up in other places, namely Seattle, Chicago, and San Francisco. Happily, the Bay Area in particular serves as a model for the good that can arise from these communal areas, and the newly opened Golden Gate Park CommUNITY Garden is the newest hub for urban gardeners, education, and togetherness.
I’ve enjoyed witnessing the innovations in urban farming and gardening in 2013, developments that include rooftop farming, community sharing, farm boxes, and expanded farmer’s markets. Was 2013 really a bad year for community gardens? How do you weigh in?