By Ben Fractenberg
CITY HALL — Holding placards and vegetables, community garden advocates rallied in front of City Hall on Wednesday to press for legislation protecting their gardens from development.
“We are here to say we want our community gardens to became a permanent part of New York City,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “These gardens offer important open space.”
Quinn has been working with community garden leaders to push for new legislation protecting the gardens once the 2002 Community Gardens Agreement expires on September 17.
The original agreement was brokered with Mayor Michael Bloomberg to protect almost 200 Green Thumb gardens in the city.
The city has proposed new rules and regulations to govern the gardens after September 17, but advocates fear they could be changed by a less supportive administration.
“The proposed rules do not consider the gardens as permanent,” said Karen Washington, president of the New York Community Garden Coalition. “These are just rules and regulations. We need to go one step forward and get legislation.”
Washington has been involved in negations with elected officials, city lawyers and the parks department.
“The proposed new rules, now going through a full public review process, are intended to protect the gardens when the current temporary agreement ends on September 17th, and they are a benefit to community gardeners, community gardens, and all New Yorkers who value them,” Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said in a statement.
While leaders try to work out a deal community gardeners will continue to stress the importance the green spaces.
“Community gardens are not just pieces of land,” said Yonette Fleming, vice president of the Hattie Carthan Community Garden in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. “Community gardens are the lungs of New York.”