Susan Chin at East New York’s Ashford Abundant Garden for the the campaign launch.

Photo: Design Trust for Public Space

Working with Council Member Rafael L. Espinal Jr. and Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, the Design Trust for Public Space has contributed to efforts for a new legislation aiming to put New York City at the forefront of the urban agriculture movement in the United States.

Under the new package of legislation co-sponsored by Council Member Espinal and Borough President Adams, Intro 1058 requires NYC Department of City Planning to develop a comprehensive urban agriculture plan. Intro 1059 requires NYC Parks to issue a report on community garden food processing and agriculture. Int. 1060 would extend the period before a community garden license can be revoked.

“We applaud Council Member Espinal and Borough President Adams’ efforts to build on legislation introduced last year with these three bills to create a comprehensive urban agriculture plan to grow farming and gardening citywide,” Susan Chin, FAIA, Hon. ASLA, executive director of Design Trust for Public Space, said. “Working with community gardeners, urban farmers, and local support organizations like Design Trust for Public Space, Council Member Espinal and Borough President Adams can create a robust and equitable plan that provides stability and applies to urban farms, community gardens, school gardens, permaculture gardens, vertical farms, and all other forms of gardening and farming practice. We encourage our leaders to form a citywide task force, composed of City agencies, urban agriculture community and funders, to optimize the health, social, economic, and environmental benefits of farming and gardening for all New Yorkers.”

On August 15, Council Member Espinal and Borough President Adams addressed a gathering at the Ashford Abundant Park in East New York, that included advocacy groups, farmers, students and community members, introducing the legislations and announcing plans to expand urban agriculture in New York City.  These legislative proposals align with our recommendations for a comprehensive plan and roadmap developed over the years with farmers, gardeners, support organizations and city officials to grow the movement that started with our Five Borough Farm project. Urban farming and gardening activities provide healthy food, create jobs, connect young people with seniors, and contribute to collecting stormwater and food scraps and turning them into productive soil. In 2015, Design Trust partnered with Farming Concrete to create the Barn and Mill data collection toolkit, now used by over 380 gardens and 77 cities across the globe to measure progress in urban farms and gardens.

East New York is currently home to over 60 community gardens. Lyeta Herb, garden coordinator at Ashford Abundant Garden, David Vigil from East NY Farms, and Aziz Dekahn from NYC community Garden Coalition noted that the legislation would address important issues, such as eliminating food deserts and low-grade local produce, and thereby promoting food justice and building sustainable communities. Council Member Espinal expressed concerns over the plight of several gardens across the city that get transferred to the hands of developers without providing members of the community adequate notice, information or tools to fight back over such decisions made by the city. “We understand housing is a serious issue,” he said. “Especially in East New York, but to have a thriving community we must value spaces that nourish us, not just house us.”

The sweat equity invested by community stewards who have turned these vacant lots into centers for social cohesion deserve better bureaucratic support in the form of incentives and protection for urban gardener. Developers and property owners can give back to the community by converting their rooftops and underutilized spaces into public spaces. David Vigil, the Project Director of East NY Farms, articulated the need to put community gardens at the forefront of any conversation regarding urban agriculture. “Community gardens are reflection of the best in our communities, of the capacities for local residents to put their volunteering efforts to turn blighted lots into vibrant gardens like the one you see behind me.”  However as Aziz De Khan pointed out, “The city still maps these pieces of parcels as vacant property.” That needs to change.

The three legislations outline a comprehensive plan to address gaps and inefficiencies in urban gardens, creating a robust, transparent and equitable urban agriculture plan that promotes growth and strengthens all forms of gardening and farming citywide, to benefit all New Yorkers.

Intro 1058 urges the City to provide more technical and financial assistance to expand the number of community gardens throughout the five boroughs. 

Intro 1059 requires the NYC Parks Department to create a detailed inventory of the operation and output of community gardens, including the amounts and types of food produced, information on the equipments used in the garden and information on the availability of potential sites that can be used for urban agriculture.

Intro 1060 extends the period for transfer of a community garden license by the city, to one year, giving sufficient time and clarity of process to take adequate steps to secure themselves. This protects gardeners from sudden termination of licensing without a reason or any recourse.

For further information, read the press release here.

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The beauty of this — no garden is complete if they have only one type of plant inside. If you take a reflection of our gardeners sharing our soil together it's a reflection of the diversity of what a garden should look like.

Eric L. Adams, Brooklyn Borough President