Update, El Flamboyan - Parks Upholds Attorney General's agreement. (Bronx Parks taking over permanent active community gardens?)

El Flamboyan Community Garden Meeting

a
rranged by State Senator Serrano at the Congressmember Serrano’s Office

attended by:

State Attorney General's office of Environmental Protection; Gordon Johnson

State Senator Jose Serrano: El Tejumade Ajaiyeoba community Outreach &

Brian Levingston Community Liaison

El Flamboyan Community Garden: Gloria Feliciano & Fernando Rodriguez,

Parks Assistant Commissioner: Jack Linn

Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte,

Bronx Parks Capital Budget Team: Raymond Gomez & James Mituzas,

GreenThumb Director Edie Stone

More Gardens! Aresh Javadi.

Bronx Green Up Ursala Chance, Luis Lemus, and his son.


Very brief notes:

History and update by Gloria Feliciano

Mr. Aponte responded that the Bronx Parks was trying to improve the community and the area to the South of the community garden seemed neglected.

After some heated debate and general concerns it was made clear that all areas in the community garden are in use or are waiting to be used. This was emphasized by a letter from Critical Resistance the Non Profit group who was waiting to plant on the area to the South as soon as the Parks construction dilemma was resolved. The issue of using electricity for community events was also resolved with an offer of a generator from GreenThumb to the community gardeners.


An amiable consensus was reached that:

1- A perimeter iron gate fence around the entire garden area with gates remaining as per the plans submitted

2- Water source will be installed

3- Cancelled are any excavation or additional renovations inside the site

4- El Flamboyan community garden retains all the lots which were originally signed and agreed to by the community gardeners, OAG, the Mayor (which included the Parks & HPD).


Thanks to all at the table especially the State Senator for bringing this issue to the table in a timely and caring manner. It has been a learning experience for all.

 

 

 

Open Memo - Edie Stone, Director of GreenThumb


To: AC Jack Linn, Chris Reo, Chief of Design Charles McKinney
From: Edie Stone
CC: Adrian Benepe, Raymundo Gomez, Trish Clark, Gloria Feliciano
Date: 5/9/07
Enc.

Last week I met with Raymundo Gomez, Team Leader for Bronx Capital Projects, and Trish Clark, Project Designer at the Olmsted Center. The purpose of this meeting was to address concerns that community gardeners from El Flamboyan garden (the project site) had with the proposed redesign before the commencement of construction. The capital project has been assigned to a contractor and construction is expected to commence within a few weeks.


I am afraid that this meeting did very little to assuage my concerns that undertaking this project will be a violation of the terms of the Garden Settlement Agreement between Mayor Bloomberg and former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. In my opinion, completing the project as envisioned is not to the advantage of the gardeners and in fact disenfranchises them from property that they are legally entitled to occupy under the settlement terms.


Before addressing the specifics of this project, let me state a few relevant facts:

 

  • Under the terms of the 2002 Garden Settlement, the city is obligated by law to complete a “garden review process” before the development of any GreenThumb Garden site. The garden review process (described in Section Six of the memorandum of agreement) requires that he developing agency must provide the Gardener of Record of any GreenThumb garden to be developed with a list of available city-owned vacant land. The Gardener of Record may select a site from the List to use as an alternate gardening site. “Alternate gardens shall be offered for preservation within one year after they have registered with the GreenThumb Program Office…”
  • The Gardener of Record for Jardin Criollo, Fernando Rodriguez, selected the site currently used as El Flamboyan garden from such a list and executed a legal “Surrender Agreement” as a part of this process on April 17th 2004. The agreement “by and among the City of New York, Fernando Rodriguez, and Jardin Criollo” states that “This Agreement shall constitute a written agreement between the City, the Gardener of Record, and the gardening group to relocate the garden operated by the gardening Group and the Gardener of Record from the Gardening Site to the Alternate site. The alternate site specified in this agreement is Bronx Block 2664 Lot 23, 24,26,27, and 52. The site at the time was undeveloped Parkland, and its inclusion in the list was approved by Bronx Borough Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski.
  • The Jardin Criollo/ El Flamboyan gardening group has maintained a legal, registered and licensed GreenThumb garden on Bronx Block 2664 Lot 23,24,26,27,and 52 since the spring of 2004.

The funding for the capital project currently envisioned was provided by former City Council member Jose Serrano in order to facilitate the relocation of the garden group and the reconstruction of their garden on the new site. To this end, a planning meeting was held with the gardeners, community residents, Habitat for Humanity, Parks and GreenThumb personnel and GreenThumb Landscape designer Edie Kean on July 22 2004. The result of this meeting was the generation of a proposed design for the El Flamboyan garden that is currently in the possession of the Bronx Capital Projects team.


On August 8th 2004, GreenThumb requested on behalf of the gardeners that the Bronx Parks Commissioner approve the construction of a casita and stage on the new garden site. It was the understanding of the gardeners and GreenThumb that this building was temporary, and that a replacement structure would be built when the capital project moved forward. I mention this because it has been alleged that the gardeners built this structure in violation of Parks and GreenThumb rules. While there is a gray area here in terms of legality, the gardeners complied with the terms of their Parks license which stipulates that “No permanent structures or murals or other permanent works of art may be built in the Garden without permission from GreenThumb, and where applicable, the New York City Department of Buildings”

The capital project as currently envisioned violates the spirit of the agreement if not the law (I am not a lawyer and cannot render a legal opinion here) in the following ways:

  • The gardeners input into the current plan was severely limited. The original community plan (executed by Edie Kean) was consulted in the draft of the final plan, but due to costs, very few of the elements considered most important to the gardeners were included. Likewise, GreenThumb staff was not notified of any of the subsequent design or scoping meetings for this project.
  • The portion of the capital project currently scheduled for construction (Phase One) permanently excludes the gardeners from a portion of the original garden. Lots 23 and 52, granted to the gardeners in the Surrender Agreement and subsequent Parks license documents, are to be fenced off from the rest of the garden.
  • During construction of Phase One, it is unclear that the gardeners will be granted access to any part of the garden. The construction fencing as shown in the bid documents does not have any gate by which the gardeners can access the remainder of the garden site.
  • During the construction of Phase One, the gardeners will not be able to access the hydrant, which they depend on for water for their garden. Phase One as currently depicted does not include installation of a water source for the community portion of the garden.

 

 

El Flamboyan Community Garden - History

El Flamboyan Community Garden, formerly named Jardin Criollo, was located at 750 E. 152nd St. & Concord Ave (Block 2643, Lots 34, 36, and 38). It was founded in 1988 by a group of twenty friends, calling their organization Amigos Unidos Del Bronx.

The original space contained a lot of junked cars and garbage and was a refugee for drug pushers and users. People were mugged there, and there was a lot of violence around the lot. The group decided to do something to take back the vacant lot and make it an asset for the community. They asked permission to convert it into a garden, and then they started hands-on, from scratch, with nothing but their hard work and dedication. When the community saw this happening, people started joining in to help. Jardin Criollo grew to 100 active members and became a model garden for public participation and community access.

Special garden features included a casita, a tool shed, seating areas, stage, annual flowers, meeting areas, fruit trees, perennials, a children's play area, flowers/bushes, shade trees, water collection system off roof of casita, a composting facility.

Trees: There were 2 cherry trees, 4 apple trees, 2 peach trees, a Honeylocust tree, a Dwarf Fir, a Pine tree, an Arborvite tree, and a 100' Grape Vine.

Vegetables and Medicinal Herbs
included tomato, peppers, lettuce, eggplant, beans, squash, pumpkin, corn, cucumber, cilantro,sage, yerba buena, aloe, ruda, altamesa, polello, mejorana, pasote, yanten, and dandelion.

Garden Events happen at Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, 4th July, Memorial Day Bar-b-q, Labor day Bar-b-q, Block party, birthday parties, Baptisms, family reunions. Youth baseball And Little League Celebration, Senior Safe Walk Program (accompanying seniors to safely cash their checks) senior field trip to Atlantic City and other places, food giveaways (from donated food and from food grown in the garden).

The garden was expanded in 1992 to meet the needs of local community access.

The community garden had been on HPD land, which under the OAG agreement was either to be preserved where it was or to be moved to a comparable relocation site in the event that the original site would be developed for housing.

The Councilmember Serrano brokered a deal with (comma out) OAG, HPD and Parks to relocate to the present site on unused Parks land, with $350,00 to be allocated for the garden to be made according to the vision of the gardeners, in repayment for all their sacrifices.

In the year 2004 with much sadness and anticipation the community garden was relocated to 150th St./ Tinton Ave.

The garden was re-named El Flamboyan and now has 50 active members and 150 youth who use the garden through local public schools P.S. 161 and I.S 184. It hosts a least a dozen garden events for the surrounding community each season-community bar-b-q's, birthday parties, 4th of July, mother's day, father's day, annual block party.

The garden is used by neighborhood people as the local community center. Local clubs and organizations (such as Little League, Bronx Dominoes, Bronx organizing committee for the Puerto Rican Day Parade, Classics NY Bicycle Club) also utilize the garden for their activities. The organizers of this garden schedule year –round senior and children's activities. They have also worked with local Senior Centers and the local NYPD as participants in the Safe Walk Program (to cash social security checks).

Organizations and individuals who support our garden: the GreenThumb Program of Parks and Recreation, Bronx Green-Up of The New York Botanical Garden, Council on the Environment, (comma) Green Guerillas, Sen. Ruben Diaz, and the donors of food for the food give-a-way program.

We need gardens to breathe fresh air, to beautify our neighborhoods, and to increase and provide a space for community access to green space and public participation.


Garden Contacts:
Fernando Rodriguez
700 Westchester Ave #2F
Bronx, NY 10455
917 640-9690

Gloria Feliciano
700 Westchester Ave #2F
Bronx, NY 10455
718 585-3774
917 607-6240
E-Mail: Seliciano7@aol.com

 

 

 

Open Memo - from Edie Stone Director of GreenThumb
To: AC Jack Linn, Chris Reo, Chief of Design Charles McKinney
From: Edie Stone
CC: Adrian Benepe, Raymundo Gomez, Trish Clark, Gloria Feliciano
Date: 5/9/07
Enc.


Last week I met with Raymundo Gomez, Team Leader for Bronx Capital Projects, and Trish
Clark, Project Designer at the Olmsted Center. The purpose of this meeting was to address
concerns that community gardeners from El Flamboyan garden (the project site) had with the
proposed redesign before the commencement of construction. The capital project has been
assigned to a contractor and construction is expected to commence within a few weeks.


I am afraid that this meeting did very little to assuage my concerns that undertaking this
project will be a violation of the terms of the Garden Settlement Agreement between Mayor
Bloomberg and former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. In my opinion, completing the project
as envisioned is not to the advantage of the gardeners and in fact disenfranchises them from
property that they are legally entitled to occupy under the settlement terms.


Before addressing the specifics of this project, let me state a few relevant facts:


*Under the terms of the 2002 Garden Settlement, the city is obligated by law to complete a
“garden review process” before the development of any GreenThumb Garden site. The
garden review process (described in Section Six of the memorandum of agreement)
requires that he developing agency must provide the Gardener of Record of any
GreenThumb garden to be developed with a list of available city-owned vacant land. The
Gardener of Record may select a site from the List to use as an alternate gardening site.
“Alternate gardens shall be offered for preservation within one year after they have
registered with the GreenThumb Program Office...”


*The Gardener of Record for Jardin Criollo, Fernando Rodriguez, selected the site currently
used as El Flamboyan garden from such a list and executed a legal “Surrender
Agreement” as a part of this process on April 17th 2004. The agreement “by and among
the City of New York, Fernando Rodriguez, and Jardin Criollo” states that “This
Agreement shall constitute a written agreement between the City, the Gardener of Record,
and the gardening group to relocate the garden operated by the gardening Group and the
Gardener of Record from the Gardening Site to the Alternate site. The alternate site
specified in this agreement is Bronx Block 2664 Lot 23, 24,26,27, and 52. The site at the
time was undeveloped Parkland, and its inclusion in the list was approved by Bronx
Borough Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski.


*The Jardin Criollo/ El Flamboyan gardening group has maintained a legal, registered and
licensed GreenThumb garden on Bronx Block 2664 Lot 23,24,26,27,and 52 since the
spring of 2004.


The funding for the capital project currently envisioned was provided by former City Council
member Jose Serrano in order to facilitate the relocation of the garden group and the
reconstruction of their garden on the new site. To this end, a planning meeting was held with
the gardeners, community residents, Habitat for Humanity, Parks and GreenThumb personnel
and GreenThumb Landscape designer Edie Kean on July 22 2004. The result of this meeting
was the generation of a proposed design for the El Flamboyan garden that is currently in the
possession of the Bronx Capital Projects team.


On August 8th 2004, GreenThumb requested on behalf of the gardeners that the Bronx Parks
Commissioner approve the construction of a casita and stage on the new garden site. It was
the understanding of the gardeners and GreenThumb that this building was temporary, and
that a replacement structure would be built when the capital project moved forward. I mention
this because it has been alleged that the gardeners built this structure in violation of Parks and
GreenThumb rules. While there is a gray area here in terms of legality, the gardeners
complied with the terms of their Parks license which stipulates that “No permanent structures
or murals or other permanent works of art may be built in the Garden without permission from
GreenThumb, and where applicable, the New York City Department of Buildings”

 


The capital project as currently envisioned violates the spirit of the agreement if not the law (I
am not a lawyer and cannot render a legal opinion here) in the following ways:


*The gardeners input into the current plan was severely limited. The original community
plan (executed by Edie Kean) was consulted in the draft of the final plan, but due to costs,
very few of the elements considered most important to the gardeners were included.
Likewise, GreenThumb staff was not notified of any of the subsequent design or scoping
meetings for this project.


*The portion of the capital project currently scheduled for construction (Phase One)
permanently excludes the gardeners from a portion of the original garden. Lots 23 and 52,
granted to the gardeners in the Surrender Agreement and subsequent Parks license
documents, are to be fenced off from the rest of the garden.


*During construction of Phase One, it is unclear that the gardeners will be granted access to
any part of the garden. The construction fencing as shown in the bid documents does not
have any gate by which the gardeners can access the remainder of the garden site.
During the construction of Phase One, the gardeners will not be able to access the hydrant,
which they depend on for water for their garden. Phase One as currently depicted does not
include installation of a water source for the community portion of the garden.

*In the current design, the remainder of the El Flamboyan Garden (Block 2664 Lots
24,26,and 27) is designated as “Future Work” intended to be completed as funding
becomes available. The depiction is clearly a traditional park with no community garden
elements present. The gardeners and I share the concern that the ultimate intention for this
site is to eliminate the community garden entirely.

 


While the Capital Projects team members I met with were sympathetic and willing to amend
the Phase One plan to include elements needed by the gardeners (water access, raised bed
materials to replace beds they will lose in construction, a truck accessible gate) there is no
assurance that these modifications will be approved by the Borough Commissioner. It is also
of grave concern to the gardeners and me that if the currently depicted plan for future
development of the garden is not drastically modified, the eventual eviction of the gardeners is
inevitable.


This situation sets an important precedent for the future relations between the gardeners and
the Parks Department. An agency wide protocol must be developed as soon as possible to
address the rights of licensed GreenThumb community gardeners when the Parks Department
has capital development plans for a garden site. While most gardeners would welcome the
additional resources capital projects bring to them they clearly want to be a part of the design
process and as much of the construction process as is feasible. We have seen from past
experience with the Success Garden projects that the community will not readily agree to
manage open spaces they have not had a hand in creating.


In this case, it appears that the lack of community management is not a concern, as the
Department intends to transform the site into a traditional Park. If this does happen, gardeners
citywide will have legitimate reason fear the same fate. I do not think the resulting public
outcry will benefit the Parks Department or the City in any way. This plan also disregards the
commitment and efforts of community gardeners to improve and transform properties that the
City had long neglected, a commitment clearly recognized by the Commissioner, the Mayor
and the present Governor as valuable.

 

 


El Flamboyan Community Garden - History


El Flamboyan Community Garden, formerly named Jardin Criollo, was located at 750 E. 152nd
St. & Concord Ave (Block 2643, Lots 34, 36, and 38). It was founded in 1988 by a group of
twenty friends, calling their organization Amigos Unidos Del Bronx.


The original space contained a lot of junked cars and garbage and was a refugee for drug pushers
and users. People were mugged there, and there was a lot of violence around the lot. The group
decided to do something to take back the vacant lot and make it an asset for the community.
They asked permission to convert it into a garden, and then they started hands-on, from scratch,
with nothing but their hard work and dedication. When the community saw this
happening, people started joining in to help. Jardin Criollo grew to 100 active members and
became a model garden for public participation and community access.


Special garden features
included a casita, a tool shed, seating areas, stage, annual flowers,
meeting areas, fruit trees, perennials, a children's play area, flowers/bushes, shade trees, water
collection system off roof of casita, a composting facility.


Trees: There were 2 cherry trees, 4 apple trees, 2 peach trees, a Honeylocust tree, a Dwarf Fir, a
Pine tree, an Arborvite tree, and a 100' Grape Vine.
Vegetables and Medicinal Herbs included tomato, peppers, lettuce, eggplant, beans, squash,
pumpkin, corn, cucumber, cilantro,sage, yerba buena, aloe, ruda, altamesa, polello, mejorana,
pasote, yanten, and dandelion.


Garden Events
happen at Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, 4th July, Memorial Day Bar-b-q, Labor
day Bar-b-q, Block party, birthday parties, Baptisms, family reunions. Youth baseball And Little
League Celebration, Senior Safe Walk Program (accompanying seniors to safely cash their
checks) senior field trip to Atlantic City and other places, food giveaways (from donated food
and from food grown in the garden).
The garden was expanded in 1992 to meet the needs of local community access.

The community garden had been on HPD land, which under the OAG agreement was either to be
preserved where it was or to be moved to a comparable relocation site in the event that the
original site would be developed for housing.

The Councilmember Serrano brokered a deal with (comma out) OAG, HPD and Parks to relocate
to the present site on unused Parks land, with $350,00 to be allocated for the garden to be made
according to the vision of the gardeners, in repayment for all their sacrifices.

In the year 2004 with much sadness and anticipation the community garden was relocated to
150th St./ Tinton Ave.
The garden was re-named El Flamboyan and now has 50 active members and 150 youth who use
the garden through local public schools P.S. 161 and I.S 184. It hosts a least a dozen garden
events for the surrounding community each season-community bar-b-q's, birthday parties, 4th of
July, mother's day, father's day, annual block party.

The garden is used by neighborhood people as the local community center. Local clubs and
organizations (such as Little League, Bronx Dominoes, Bronx organizing committee for the
Puerto Rican Day Parade, Classics NY Bicycle Club) also utilize the garden for their activities.
The organizers of this garden schedule year –round senior and children's activities. They have
also worked with local Senior Centers and the local NYPD as participants in the Safe Walk
Program (to cash social security checks).
Organizations and individuals who support our garden: the GreenThumb Program of Parks and
Recreation, Bronx Green-Up of The New York Botanical Garden, Council on the Environment,
(comma) Green Guerillas, Sen. Ruben Diaz, and the donors of food for the food give-a-way
program.
We need gardens to breathe fresh air, to beautify our neighborhoods, and to increase and provide
a space for community access to green space and public participation.
Garden Contacts:
Fernando Rodriguez
700 Westchester Ave #2F
Bronx, NY 10455
917 640-9690


Gloria Feliciano

700 Westchester Ave #2F
Bronx, NY 10455
718 585-3774
917 607-6240
E-Mail: Seliciano7@aol.com