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Brooklyn Senator Moves to Seize Community Garden by Eminent Domain

By Rachel Holliday Smith | October 23, 2015 3:06pm | Updated on October 25, 2015 9:29pm
 A gardener at the Maple Street Community Garden works in the green space in May. State Sen. Jesse Hamilton of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens has introduced legislation to seize the property through the use of eminent domain.
A gardener at the Maple Street Community Garden works in the green space in May. State Sen. Jesse Hamilton of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens has introduced legislation to seize the property through the use of eminent domain.
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Facebook/Maple Street Community Garden

PROSPECT-LEFFERTS GARDENS — As a fight in court over a local community garden drags on, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens’ state senator is trying to save the green space another way: by turning it into state parkland through the use of eminent domain.

State Sen. Jesse Hamilton submitted a bill to the state legislature Friday afternoon that would, if passed into law, compel the New York State Department of Parks to seize the Maple Street Community Garden at 237 Maple St. in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, staff for the senator said.

The garden has been the site of a year-long battle with two brothers, Joseph and Michael Makhani, who hold a deed on the property and have repeatedly tried to push gardeners and residents off the property, both physically — police intervened last year when the pair drove a box truck onto the plot and began tearing up planted beds — and in court.

The bill directs the commissioner of the state parks department to seize the 6,000-square-foot lot through the use of eminent domain, at which point it would turn into a state park and “community garden to be managed by neighborhood volunteers through the New York City parks department Green Thumb program.”

A similar bill was introduced by Williamsburg state representatives last year to seize the Swinging Sixties Senior Center at 211 Ainslie St. by eminent domain. But after passing in both bodies of the legislature, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed the proposed law in August.

The members of the Maple Street garden plan to hold a rally, work day and press conference to introduce the bill with Senator Hamilton at the green space at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

An inquiry made to the Makhanis was not immediately returned on Friday.