New York City sales of community gardens halted

NEW YORK, New York, November 29, 2004 (ENS): The city of New York has been temporarily restrained by a state Supreme Court judge from selling three plots of land in the Melrose section of the South Bronx which are now planted as community gardens - Sunshine Garden, Family Group Garden, and the Latinos Unidos Garden.

The petitioners in this case, community gardeners and an organization representing community gardeners, South Bronx United Gardeners, Inc. (SBUG), represented by the Urban Justice Center, brought a lawsuit against the city for its failure to comply with procedures in the City Charter for disposing of city owned lots.

Judge Eileen Branston, who issued the temporary restraining order against the sales on November 24, will hear arguments in the case on Wednesday morning.

The most public housing projects, the South Bronx is one of the most densely populated sections of New York City. Area young people suffer from high rates of asthma, and the rate of green space per person is one of the lowest in the city.

Sunshine Garden is a working farm - the members are mostly elderly men who come from different countries in Latin America, master gardeners with an interest in growing vegetables and fruit for their community. There are fig, apple, and peach trees, roses and blueberries.

Family Group Garden is open to several daycare centers, as well as to students from P.S.29 who garden and build structures for playing and celebration, and to the Boy Scouts for picnics, storytelling, and garden workshops.

Latinos Unidos is a family oriented garden across the street from the Andrew Jackson Housing Development, an enormous project filled with people who have no access to other community green space. Founded by Juan Bolanos, an immigrant from Cuba, who wanted to offer the community a place to relax and enjoy beauty, this garden is known for its cookouts and music. It is open for a few hours after every working day, as well as on Sundays.

The gardeners affected by the city's plans to demolish the gardens say they are willing to consider alternate sites in the community for their gardens. The gardeners have proposed a comprehensive plan, the Homes and Gardens Plan, that they say would preserve community garden space and promote more affordable housing than is now planned by the city.

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