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Parks Dept. Uproots Rogue Farm in Washington Heights Park

By Carla Zanoni | June 20, 2011 7:04am | Updated on June 20, 2011 6:48am

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The Parks Department tore out a secret farm grown deep in High Bridge Park on Friday after warning that the crops were not safe for consumption.

A Parks Department crew removed the vegetables Friday, ripping up the tidy rows of tilled soil and tossing the leafy remains into a green garbage truck.

"We can't allow individuals to plant in a public park without having conversations with Parks officials and receiving appropriate approvals," said Parks spokesman Phil Abramson, explaining the action.

The department had warned the rogue uptown farmer to stop planting last summer when they discovered the first crop, saying that illegal dumping in the park may have tainted the soil.

The department offered the farmer an alternative site in "a secured community garden" through Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez’s office, but the offer was never accepted.

Rodriguez said that the farmer, who he said lives in the neighborhood,  had recruited a team of senior citizens to help tend the land.

"It's sad to see this happen to a group of people taking time to keep our parks clean, but I also understand the intention of Parks to keep people healthy," Rodriguez said, adding that he had initially spoken to the farmer last summer.

According to Parks and Rodriguez, the two will be working with the farmers to identify a safe place for the group to harvest string beans, corn and tomato plants.

"[We] agreed to work to identify an appropriate location in the area - one where there is a fence with protection and one where there are raised planting beds so new soil can be use," said Abramson.

"I hope that we can soon come up with an idea of how to work with this group of residents to keep them busy and involved and keep the park safe and clean," Rodriguez said.

"They are doing what we would like to see all New Yorkers doing, which is being green."

DNAinfo's attempts to find the farmer were not successful.