A discussion of how we can increase the security our local food supply at a time when rising fuel costs, climate change and political turmoil make it particularly vulnerable. As seen through the lens of the Imani Gardens, located at 1680 Pacific Street and 87-91 Schenectady Street.
On a cold February 10th morning about 100 intrepid gardeners gathered on the steps of City Hall to express their outrage. It seems that Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the housing arm of New York City, had decided on its own authority to confiscate 17 community gardeners for "affordable housing". Without any advance warning to the Parks Department that administers community gardens on City land, the affected City Council members or the community boards, on January 14th HPD issued a Request for Proposals asking developers to express interest in developing housing on 181 City-owned lots. Buried among these 181 lots, among over 1,000 owned by the City, were 17 community gardens.
The response was swift and furious. Within 24 hours, Antonio Reynoso, a Council Member from Williamsburgh, issued a letter to the mayor asking that all 17 of the gardens be removed from the list. By the date of the rally, CMs Robert Cornegie, Rosie Mendez and Stephen Levin had also voiced their concern about the manner in which HPD conducted itself.
The question we have to ask ourselves: what role do gardens play in our communities? Are communities more than just affordable housing? In fact, the housing being offered by HPD is not even affordable. Using something called the Area Median Income (AMI), under the RFP terms, only 1/3 of the units need to be affordable, meaning 2/3 of the units won't be affordable. And HPD's definition of affordable is 80% of the AMI for a family of four. Given that the AMI (based on regional statistics that include suburban counties) is $88,600, than means that one out of three units must be affordable to a family earning $70,880. Hello, HPD. That does not reflect the actual incomes of families in these communities. These units will be affordable in name only.
Don't let this mindless land grab go unnoticed. Sign our petition at Stop the land grab.
For more information on this situation, check out New York City Community Garden Coalition website.
Stay tuned for more developments!