3/29/14

Sierra Club Joins Coney Island Community Gardeners

At a press conference on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall on March 5, venerable environmental advocacy organization The Sierra Club joined the Coney Island community gardeners whose plots were destroyed by a private developer last December.

Created in the 1980s, the Boardwalk Community Garden, on land owned by the NYC Parks Dept. next to the landmarked Child's Restaurant building, survived Hurricane Sandy, but fell to term-limited Marty Markowitz in his last days in office.

Markowitz had tried unsuccessfully in 2009 to build an amphitheater in Asser Levy Park, but the community thwarted his plan.  He came back with a plan for the city to buy the Childs building from iStar Financial, renovate it, and knock out one of its walls to create a dining and concert venue.

Again, Markowitz was met with bitter community opposition, with the local community board voting down the project and neighborhood residents protesting that the proposed $53 million amphitheater would turn the Childs building into a public nuisance.

Over the community's opposition, and over the gardeners' protests that deeding the land to a private developer to build the amphitheater was an illegal alienation of parkland, the City Council approved the 5,000 seat project.

The developer's dozers rolled up to the community garden at 4 AM on December 29, 2013. The 20 chickens that the gardeners -- most of them seniors -- kept were crated and put on the sidewalk. A colony of feral cats that the gardeners were caretaking was scattered. The gardeners' tools and wheelbarrows were destroyed; and their beloved 70,000 sq. ft. plot was bulldozed, burying everything that grew there.

One weeping garden volunteer called it "Worse than Communist Russia."

Outraged, the gardeners teamed with the New York City Community Garden Coalition, vowing to fight back and challenging the legality of the raid.

Project manager NYC Economic Development Corporation stonewalled phone calls from reporters, but a consultant said the garden had been "decommissioned" in 2004.

The Sierra Club contact for this advocacy campaign is Irene Van Slyke irene.vanslyke@verizon.net 718.852.5668.

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