Roger That! Community Garden Under Threat

Updated at: 01/23/2014 10:46 AM
By: Networx

Photo: Paul Lucas/FlickrAs developers encroach on all available land in urban areas, the tension between green space and developed space is growing more serious, as evidenced in New York, where green space is at a premium. While some enterprising New York gardeners solve this problem by installing massive rooftop gardens, others do it the old-fashioned way: down in the dirt at ground level.

Unfortunately, many community gardens rely on the benevolence of landlords who don't mind them using unprofitable empty lots. When those lots sell, however, developers usually have an interest in putting something in place other than a community garden, and tensions can run high. Traumatic evictions are becoming par for the course in some cities, where community gardeners try to stand their ground while developers insist that the purchase has given them rights to use the land as they see fit.

In Crown Heights, New York, another community garden drama is playing out at Roger That!, where people have been gardening for three years. A developer bought the property last year, to the surprise of the gardeners, and they've been given an order to move out, or watch their garden go under the bulldozer.

These cases sometimes end in bitter scenes, but there's a chance the Roger That! crew might be able to work something out. Allegedly, there's a possibility they may be able to buy the lot, though they may not be able to afford the premium that comes with New York real estate -- when a lot can be used for extremely lucrative purposes, a developer may be reluctant to sell it to community groups at an affordable cost.

Alternatively, they could move to another lot, but that requires more time, something activists claim the developers aren't giving them. If they can't relocate soon, their established garden beds, compost boxes, and other gardening infrastructure will go under the blade of a bulldozer, and they'll have to start all over again, working with New York carpenters and others to rebuild. The gardeners need time to both find a new location and move all their supplies, which could take a while; will the developers be willing to give them an extension?

Here's hoping they can work it out, because if they don't, Crown Heights will be losing a community garden, and New York will be losing another vital patch of green space.

Katie Marks writes for Networx.com.

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