LOWER EAST SIDE — A new fence went up Tuesday inside a Lower East Side community garden that is threatened by private development, blocking gardeners from seeing the plants that they had tended for years.
Developer Serge Hoyda, who owns about half of the Children's Magical Garden on Norfolk and Stanton streets, put up a wire fence in May to prevent gardeners from using his part of the lot. Workers returned to the garden Tuesday to install a more permanent plywood fence that will completely block the view of the off-limits area.
Gardeners had originally planned a party on Tuesday to celebrate the recent news that the remaining half of the garden, owned by the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, would be permanently protected as park space.
But instead of celebrating, the gardeners wound up upset over the installation of the new fence.
"We can't even see the plants that we can't touch anymore," said Feng Chen, 18, who began volunteering in the Children's Magical Garden when she was 10 years old and is now a youth leader assisting with weekly programs for kids.
"He [Hoyda] doesn't want us to see any of it," she added.
In May, during the installation of the wire fence, a lawyer for Hoyda said the developer installed the fence and booted the gardeners because of liability concerns.
Hoyda did not return an email or call for comment Tuesday.
Volunteer residents claimed the formerly vacant lot 30 years ago, transforming it to a garden and community space.
But Hoyda has been planning for many years to develop his section of the garden, and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development had set aside its part for affordable housing.
Two weeks ago, HPD transferred its half of the garden to the Parks Department to ensure it will always remain a community space.
"This is a keep-the-pressure-on-slash-dance-party-slash-first-victory celebration," said garden director Kate Temple-West, a Lower East Side resident and writer, as she led children in protest chants for the entire garden to be restored.
So far, Hoyda has not agreed to requests from the gardeners to either relinquish his part of the lot or accept a land swap for another parcel somewhere else in the city.