Two recent stories about community gardens in New York City signal an alarming trend where commercial land development is prioritized over community and public health needs. In one case, a developer razed a community garden in Coney Island that had been around for over 30 years to begin construction on a new concert venue. The garden's participants weren't warned ahead of time about the closure and every plot was destroyed, according to The Gothamist.
In another case, a garden that was used as an educational facility to teach children about horticulture was fenced off, again without notice from the developer. The Children's Magical Garden, located in the Lower East Side, had been the subject of negotiations with city housing authorities, who were hoping to save it from the developer by offering a land swap.
It's unfortunate that urban policy makers haven't done a better job of protecting these community gardens from encroachment, given the benefits they present for public health and the environment. Community gardens provide a source of locally grown and harvested produce for areas that had previously been devoid of it. The plants themselves can help mitigate air pollution that is expelled by cars and trucks in these areas, and given that they are often used to provide educational and employment opportunities in previously derelict areas, they also serve economic purposes as well.
If you live in an urban area that lacks easy access to fresh produce and could use a community garden rather than a new concert hall, we hope you'll get together with other residents to advocate for the creation of more of these invaluable resources. Not only will your neighborhood have a place to buy organic, locally raised fruits and vegetables, you'll also give your community a central institution that brings neighbors together.