Here’s the latest tonight from the city regarding the fate of the Children’s Magical Garden. As previously reported, Community Board 3 voted last night to ask the city to transfer two parcels within the garden to the GreenThumb Program (a branch of the Parks Dept.), effectively making the space a permanent community resource. They also advocated for negotiations to acquire a third, adjacent lot controlled by developer Serge Hoyda (he put up a fence dividing the site last month). This is a statement received a short time ago from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which owns the lots:
After a thorough assessment of all available options we will be initiating the process of transferring the two city-owned lots to the Parks Department so they can be maintained as community gardening space. The decision was based on the overwhelming desire of the community to keep these two city-owned lots as gardening space; a position voiced and strongly supported by residents, Community Board 3 and the area’s elected officials. HPD will not be negotiating with the private owner to purchase his lot. Our funding is programmed to finance the creation and preservation of affordable housing. We do not have the budget, nor do we have the budget authority to purchase private property for use as gardening space.
The big question now: will Hoyda enter into negotiations with the garden group for control of his parcel? The lot, known as 157 Norfolk St., is small; a building on this site could not exceed 8300 square feet. It’s listed for sale for $3.3 million. Hoyda acquired the parcel in 2003 for $180,000. In the past few weeks, there has been talk of arranging a land swap, in which Hoyda would trade the Norfolk site for another city-owned development parcel. HPD rejected this idea.
Tonight, City Council member Margaret Chin released the following statement:
This a major victory for the Children’s Magical Garden. After over thirty years of uncertainty, we know this community treasure is here to stay. Gardens teach us the value of hard work and perseverance, and it is in this spirit that we have together rallied, marched, and made our voices heard fighting to protect this invaluable greenspace. I thank the gardeners, HPD, the Parks Department, Community Board 3, and my fellow elected officials for their staunch support and advocacy. The community will be able to enjoy the garden for years to come.
The resolution approved this week stated, “The Community Board very strongly favors a proposal to the extent possible to preserve the whole community garden at its present location by transferring two (2) city owned lots (Block 354 lots 16 & 18) from HPD to Parks GreenThumb and that spearhead (sic) negotiations to acquire the privately owned middle lot for the same purpose.” As you can see, there seems to be a missing word or words from the resolution, making it unclear who, specifically, should “spearhead” negotiations. More to come…