Community gardeners to rally at City Hall Monday over new license agreement
Community gardeners across NYC are taking to City Hall on Monday morning to rally against what they’re calling a new one-sided license agreement to operate their volunteer-run green spaces.
In April, community gardeners received a new four-year license agreement that they say substantially changes the relationship they’ve enjoyed with the city since 1978.
According to the New York City Community Garden Coalition, the 2019 Community Garden License Agreement and GreenThumb Gardeners’ Handbook contain additional requirements that are burdensome for both parties, and “which will hinder the community outreach and engagement that are hallmarks of community gardens in New York City.”
Under the new license, GreenThumb becomes an enforcement agency rather than a garden-friendly helpmate. This new license imposes new regulations, restrictions and obligations on garden groups.
It was written by lawyers with no sense of the historical and cultural significance of the gardens and their communities. Now we are being told that we are being allowed to garden on city property and if we don’t like the new license we don’t have to garden.
Gardeners have voiced great concerns. At a Town Hall in May, gardeners voted unanimously to not sign the license. In the past 40 years there has never been widespread opposition to garden licenses.
We have tried to negotiate changes to the license; we want to continue to work toward a better license. But the City is threatening garden groups with a lockout. We have grave concerns about these items in the new license:
• There are three sets of regulations that gardens are required to follow, these regulations are inconsistent, contradictory and confusing.
• Liability issues remain unresolved. The term “Licensee” in the agreement is not defined, what does it mean for the person signing the license on behalf of their community garden?
• Gardens are required to hold two free public events a year but must obtain written permission far in advance from GreenThumb to hold these events.
• Many of the new rules will be impossible to effectively enforce given the size of GreenThumb’s staff. This can only lead to arbitrary, discriminatory enforcement. Gardens will be lost because of developers’ greed not garden infractions.
A recent meeting between the Community Garden Coalition and city officials did net some progress, such as gardeners will once again have the option of allowing dogs into their spaces.
Officials for the Parks Department downplayed any garden drama.
“These renewals happen every four years and always have small changes based on experiences from the previous four year cycle — this cycle is no different,” Crystal Howard, assistant commissioner for communications at the Parks Department, recently told amNY.
She said changes include “making the gardens more accessible by keeping them open to the public during the weekend; allowing gardens to host more fundraising events so they can sustain themselves; and increasing safety by asking gardens to coordinate with Green Thumb ahead of planned events.”
Monday is the deadline for signing the new license. Patch reported that the Parks Department has told groups that they won’t be permitted to continue operating without one. (Patch also noted that nearly 180 gardens have already signed the agreements “out of 353 gardens expected to sign.”)
The City Hall rally on Monday starts at 10 a.m.
Previously on EV Grieve:
Concern over new GreenThumb regulations for community gardens