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3 Harlem Community Gardens Saved From Possible Development

By Gustavo Solis | December 31, 2015 1:38pm | Updated on January 3, 2016 8:26pm
 The garden on 111th Street was recently placed on the Park Department's Green Thumb program. It is no longer threatened by development, members say.
The garden on 111th Street was recently placed on the Park Department's Green Thumb program. It is no longer threatened by development, members say.
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Magali Regis

HARLEM — Three community gardens that were slated for development have been saved.

Harlem Grown’s greenhouse and Harlem Valley Garden both on 134th Street, and Electric Ladybug Garden on 111th Street joined the Parks Department’s Green Thumb program.

The three were previously on a list of more than a dozen city-owned lots that were going to be turned into apartment buildings, DNAinfo previously reported.

“It’s clearly a huge relief,” said John McBride, a member of the Electric Ladybug Garden. “There were rumors that most of the gardens would be saved but we just never knew weather that included us or not.”

The decision was announced Wednesday during a meeting between the Mayor, HPD, Parks, and community garden members and advocates, Politico first reported.

HPD agreed to transfer 34 of their 50 “temporary gardens” to the Parks Department. It is the biggest addition to the city’s community garden system in more than a decade, according to HPD.

For months, McBride and members of the garden have lobbied their community board and city council representative, and collected more than 1,600 signatures from local residents to save the garden.

Not all of Harlem’s community gardens were spared. Jackie Robinson Community Garden and Pleasant Village Community Garden were both on the original list of lots slated for development and were not transferred to the Parks Department, according to 596 Acres, a community garden advocacy group.

The group released a list of which gardens were transferred. The city has not confirmed that list.

“As we build affordable housing and livable neighborhoods across the city, we must make some tough choices — including balancing the need to protect precious green space and the need to house New York families,” HPD Commissioner Vicki Been said in a statement.

Some of the green spaces that weren't transferred will be used by the city to build more than 2,000 units of 100 percent affordable housing. The city will relocate gardens that were not transferred to the Parks Department, she added.

Both HPD and the Parks Department evaluated each site for its affordable housing potential and considered garden membership and usage to determine which gardens to transfer, according to HPD.

Tony Hillery, the founder of Harlem Grown who fought to save the garden that produces more than 2,000 pounds of food a year, said he thought it was great news.

Hillery received a call from Green Thumb Wednesday morning, and added that he had always held out hope that the the green house would be allowed to continue to operate.

“I was never really worried because of what we do there,” he said. “We feed 50 families a month out of that space. I didn’t think a developer was really going to uproot us from there.”