Coney Island

Coney Island gardeners vow court fight after garden is destroyed

Bulldozers knock over vegetable plants

December 30, 2013 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” Well, if Mary belonged to the Boardwalk Community Garden in Coney Island, the answer to the old nursery rhyme would be “not at all.”

Gardeners were outraged after their carefully cultivated community garden was bulldozed early Saturday morning by a company hired a property developer planning to construct the Seaside Park and Community Arts Center at the location – West 22nd Street next to the boardwalk.

NY1 News reported that gardeners are vowing to go to court over the destruction of the garden.

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Members of the Boardwalk Community Garden held a protest rally at the site on Monday.

Leaders of the New York City Community Garden Coalition, a group representing community gardens across the five boroughs, told the Brooklyn Eagle that protests are being planned at both Bill de Blasio’s inauguration and at the annual Polar Bear swim at Coney Island on New Year’s Day.

The City Council gave its approval to the Seaside Park development on Dec. 19. The arts center, which will contain an amphitheater, a restaurant, a park, and a playground, is a dream project of outgoing Borough President Marty Markowitz. It is expected to open in the spring of 2015.

Members of the Boardwalk Community Garden said they were in the process of negotiating with the developer, Coney Island Holdings LLC, to move their green space when they were blindsided.

The bulldozers arrived early Saturday morning, gardeners said.

“They came in with no warning,” gardener Yory Opendik told the Eagle. “I got a call at about five o’clock in the morning and I came down here as fast as I could. It was heartbreaking. They destroyed what took us so long to build. A lot of folks are very shaken by this. The garden meant something to them,” he said.

The community garden was established 16 years ago and had between 40 and 50 members, according to Opendik, who said the space was primarily a vegetable garden with potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, corn, as well as herbs like basil.

“We were hoping they would give us ample time to move our trees and our plants. But they did it in a kind of barbaric way,” Opendik said.

Coney Island Holdings LLC issued a press release contending that they had already worked out an arrangement for the Boardwalk Community Garden to be moved to another community garden site at 2829 Surf Ave., approximately five blocks away.

The developer also states that improvements are being planned for the Surf Avenue garden site to accommodate the Boardwalk Community Garden members. “The new gardening site, known as Surfside Garden, is an existing and fully licensed community garden under the New York City Parks GreenThumb Program, which had been underutilized,” the press release reads.

But members of the Community Garden Coalition dispute the developer’s contention that the Surfside garden is underutilized. “It’s a real garden with members who have worked hard and have planted fruit trees there. The Boardwalk Community Garden should not be expected to have to share space with them,” Aresh Javadi, legislative director for the coalition, told the Eagle.

Brooklyn Daily reported that the Boardwalk Community Garden is not actually sanctioned by the city. The city ordered the garden closed in 2004 because of a plan to use that section for part of the parking lot for MCU Park. The ballpark was under construction at the time. The garden was never paved over, however, and the gardeners returned to the site and operated there without official city sanction, the website reported.

Community Garden Coalition leaders contended that they have documents clearly showing that the Boardwalk Community Garden is Mapped parkland, meaning that that the space is entitled to stringent environmental law protections against real estate development.

The developer disputes that the garden is mapped by the city as parkland.

Since the project is slated to open in time for the 2015 outdoor concert season, work had to begin immediately, hence the bulldozers on Saturday, the developer stated.

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