Patch covers the GreenThumb license issue

A new article in Patch About the GreenThumb license Here’s the link:

Community Garden Volunteers Fear Rule Changes Herald End Of Oases

Community garden volunteers are gearing up for a fight against the city’s new rules for how they operate.

By Sydney Pereira, Patch Staff
Aug 14, 2019 8:17 am ET | Updated Aug 14, 2019 10:19 am ET

La Plaza Cultural Community Garden on East Ninth Street and Avenue C.
La Plaza Cultural Community Garden on East Ninth Street and Avenue C. (Sydney Pereira/Patch)

EAST VILLAGE, NY — Community gardens’ custodians are gearing up for a battle against the city’s Parks Department over new rules they fear could threaten the future of the tranquil oases.

New licensing agreements for hundreds of community gardens impose rules that members say are overly onerous for the volunteer-run green spaces across the city – with many saying they make it difficult for them to survive.

The changes include requiring additional permitting for events in the gardens and would bar volunteers from planting new trees or pruning large limbs from existing one, according to details made available by the group Loisaida United Neighborhood Gardens which advocates for gardens in the Lower East Side and East Village.

“New York City is threatening to throw gardeners out of community gardens,” the group’s website says.

“We’ve never had to give permission before to do anything in the gardens like that. That really limits things people can do in the garden,” said the head of LUNGS’ Charles Krezell. Opposition to licensing hasn’t been this widespread in decades, he added.

“It’s like they’re setting us up to somehow fail,” he said.

Gardeners have also raised concerns over who is liable if anybody is injured on the property, which remains unclear in the license text, they say.

A gardener at East Village garden La Plaza Cultural, Noreen Kelly, called the new licensing “ridiculous.”

“We’re all volunteers — so this is a difficult thing for us to triangulate,” said Kelly, who estimated there’s a dozen events per month at her garden, located at East Ninth Street and Avenue C.

Additional steps to schedule events would be a “serious time suck on all of us.”

The Parks Department said license renewals happen every four years and have small changes each cycle.

Parks spokesperson Dan Kastanis said “this cycle is no different,” emphasizing the benefits of the new rules, like increasing how many hours gardens are open and more events coordination with the city for safety purposes.

Kastanis said the changes “include making the gardens more accessible by keeping them open to the public during the weekend; allowing gardens to host more fundraising events so they can sustain themselves; and increasing safety by asking gardens to coordinate with Green Thumb ahead of planned events.”

Parks added after consultation with groups last year that most gardeners seemed fine with the licenses.

But some garden members see it as “an obvious attempt for them to try to [take] the land away from us,” said Kelly.

LUNGS published a laundry list of inconsistencies in the new agreement and handbook as well as recommendations for GreenThumb, the Parks Department entity that works with hundreds of gardens citywide. Some of those have been resolved — like allowing gardens to choose whether dogs are allowed and permitting farm programs for weekly produce pick-ups to operate in the gardens, according to the New York City Community Garden Coalition.

“This is not something that we’re just saying just to be saying and just to be difficult,” said Raymond Figueroa-Reyes, the president of the NYC Community Garden Coalition and member at the Brook Park Youth Farm Community Garden in the Bronx. “Community residents have been stewarding these places for decades.”

“If the city just left us alone, the community development potential of community gardens is unlimited,” he said.

Figueroa-Reyes and Krezell say the burden from the new rules would allow the city to more readily revoke licenses from the garden to allow the city to use the property for other purposes.

“The community does feel threatened overall as a result of that, in terms of what we are being set up for,” said Figueroa-Reyes.

Some 180 gardens have already signed the agreements out of 353 gardens expected to sign, according to Parks.

Many are refusing to sign the license. The deadline to sign it is Monday, Aug. 19, and the Parks Department has told groups they won’t be permitted to continue operate without it, according to emails from the department to garden reps provided to Patch.

Gardens citywide — from the Lower East Side to Brownsville, Brooklyn to the South Bronx — will rally Monday, at 10 a.m., on the steps of City Hall.