During the past three years, Lower East Side activists have been fighting to save a public green space on two city-owned lots, 137 Attorney St. and 181 Stanton St. The Siempre Verde Community Garden is adjacent to a privately-owned parcel and was threatened by potential real estate development. Now it appears they have finally won the battle.
According to 596 Acres, an advocacy organization, the LES site is among 34 community gardens that will be transferred today from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to the Parks Department. If true, it means the city has given up trying to build affordable housing on these parcels and decided to make them permanent community gardens. We have reached out to city officials for confirmation.
In 2014, the owner of 139 Attorney St., William Gottlieb Management, pitched a plan to build housing on the parcel it owns, as well as the two city-owned sites. Community Board 3 opposed the plan, since only three units of affordable housing would have been built and the community garden would be lost. This past May, City Council member Margaret Chin formally asked the city to transfer the garden parcels to the Green Thumb Program within the Parks Department.
Siempre Verde Community Garden has been operating under a temporary Green Thumb permit since 2012. In a Facebook post, garden activists wrote:
An enormous thanks to Manhattan Community board 3, City Council Member Margaret Chin, Borough President Gale Brewer, and to all of our numerous friends, allies and supporters in the Lower East Side and gardening community! An especial thanks to 596 Acres for having guided us along this green path and to NYCCGC, LUNGS Loisaida United Neighborhood Gardens, and to GreenThumb for their wonderful support. We feel blessed to be part of this community.
We’ll update this story when we learn more.
UPDATE 9:28 a.m. The leaders of Siempre Verde Community Garden tell us they have received an email confirming the transfer from Carlos Martinez, deputy director of Green Thumb. Here’s part of what he wrote:
Today the Mayor will be meeting with a small group of citywide garden organizations and individual gardens to brief them on a policy to address the 50 HPD interim garden sites. The City wanted to develop a comprehensive plan for these sites, rather than handle them in a piecemeal manner and continue to extend any uncertainty. The vast majority of these interim garden sites will be transferred to NYC Parks for continued protection as GreenThumb gardens.
The meeting is not listed on the version of the mayor’s schedule released by his press office. More to come…
Update 12/31: A spokesperson for the Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development confirms the transfer of the garden to the Green Thumb Program for permanent protection. More details coming up.