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Roger That

Information about this lot

Known Use: community garden
Address: 115 ROGERS AVENUE, Brooklyn, 11216
Area: 0.04 acres (1710 square feet)
Block and Lot: Brooklyn, block 1233, lot 1
More information about this lot at OASIS

Political Boundaries

City Council District 36 represented by Robert E. Cornegy, Jr.
Community District Brooklyn 8 ( info@brooklyncb8.org / 718-467-5574 ), district manager: Michelle George
Find all elected officials for this lot at Who Represents Me? NYC

Why is this lot here?

We posted this lot because:

  • The lot is being used as a community garden.
  • In MapPLUTO the city lists this lot's landuse as vacant.
  • In MapPLUTO the city lists this lot's building class as vacant.

Owner

TYC REALTY INC (private)

Steward

This land is being stewarded by the following group:

RogerThatGardenProject@gmail.com

Roger That garden is a community space in Crown Heights, Brooklyn that stewards native plants, grows edibles, and maintains community compost. Roger That garden is currently under threat of development by a real estate developer who purchased the deed to the land, subject to hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax debt liens, for $10 from the man who used to own and operate a hardware store on this lot before abandoning the buildings. The developers have attempted to illegally evict the garden through a lock-out.

Roger That can be saved if the City invokes eminent domain and buys the property to preserve it as a Parks Department garden.

Eminent domain has been used to create New York’s parks and open spaces dating at least back to 1807. Prospect Park, Central Park, the Ocean Parkway Greenway and Astor place are just a few of the over 350 condemnations for the creation or preservation of parks and open spaces that have been recorded in New York’s county courts.

News feed

Aug. 18, 2016, 2:48 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

From: "Paula Z. Segal, 596 Acres" paula@596acres.org
Subject: Re: Roger That! Garden update
Date: August 18, 2016 at 2:44:58 PM GMT-4
To: Robert Cornegy RCornegy@council.nyc.gov, "Hon. Diana C. Richardson" richardsond@assembly.state.ny.us, montgome@nysenate.gov, Diana Reyna dreyna@brooklynbp.nyc.gov
Cc: NWright@council.nyc.gov, info@brooklyncb8.org, clarkes@assembly.state.ny.us

Happy August!

Not recorded yet but the final Tax Lien Sale list just published by Finance shows that ANOTHER lien note was sold on the Roger That! garden this month in the Subsequent sale: http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/finance/downloads/pdf/lien_sale/2016/2016_final_sale.pdf.

This shows that the owners-of-record TYC Realty have fallen behind in paying their property taxes again. The City can, instead of selling the tax debt obligation to the tax lien trust for collection, retain it and initiate its own foreclosure action or refer the property to the Third Party Transfer program. By selling the debt, the City is giving up its leverage, again.

Time is of the essense for the Administration to direct Finance to buy back this particular note and change course on its involvement with the preservation of open space in Crown Heights, a neighborhood that needs it badly.

Background
This property was previously included in the 2000, 2003, 2011, 2013 and 2014 tax lien sales. In 2000, 2003, 2011, and 2013 the owner of record was HUB Hardware, a business that had abandoned the building in 1998. Lobbying by the neighboring Crown Heights Youth Collective finally got the City to remove the dangerous structure in 2007 and created a garden in its place, but HUB remained the owner of record and the debt that accrued did not give the City or the neighbors any leverage over the property. In late 2013, a real estate developer - TYC Realty - became the owner of record via a quitclaim deed for which they paid $10. The new owner thus acquired all the debt that ran with the property prior to the transaction and is subject to the debt that has accrued since. In early 2013, Bank of New York Mellon initiated foreclosure on the 2000, 2003 and 2011 tax lien certificates. That foreclosure proceeding is ongoing. TYC Realty obtained an order of possession for the property in the Spring and evicted the garden. It’s poorly maintained construction fence becomes more of an eyesore daily.

In solidarity,

Paula Z. Segal, Esq.
Executive Director
Director of Policy & Advocacy
718-316-6092 x 2
paula@596acres.org

Aug. 8, 2016, 1:59 p.m.
Paula at 596 Acres said

Let's make the City acquisition of this lot a budget item in 2018: http://ideas.pbnyc.org/place/474053

May 21, 2016, 11:05 a.m.
paula said

Super frustrating - it seems that the developer who only owns a quitclaim to the property has locked the garden out by building a shed.

This developer is very likely to lose all claims this year as the tax lien foreclosure case concludes with a public auction at which anyone can bid to buy the lot from a referee. The tax lien trust is awaiting a judge's order to allow the auction (next in court June 28, 2016).

The referee will auction based on the estimated market value of the property. The developer - or anyone else - will then be able to bid.

This will be an opportunity for the City or any angel who wants to step in to actually buy the lot and preserve it as open space.

The pending auction also opens up the possibility that any construction that is begun here will shortly be stalled as the developer themselves evicted.

March 25, 2016, 12:19 p.m.
paula at 596 acres uploaded
Tax Lien Foreclosure Case Significantly more than $244,654.07 is owed to the tax lien trust, to be calculated when actually sold. See attached. The lawyers for the Trust are requesting an order from a judge to finalize their right to sell the property to pay themselves.
Feb. 11, 2016, 7:49 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

The next appearance at Landlord Tenant court in Brooklyn in the eviction case that may displace the Roger That! garden is on March 10 at 10am at 141 Livingston Street, Brooklyn. Plan to be there!

Feb. 4, 2016, 7:41 p.m.
Saqib said

<

Dear Chairperson Andrews, Vice-Chair Albert, and the rest of the Parks Committee,

A hearty thank you, once more, for hosting Roger That garden at CB8 on Tuesday. We hope you agree that our humble garden can serve the community as a permanent public park – much more than a few luxury condos could.

If so, we'd be thankful for your letters of support for two bills being considered in Albany: A08583 and S06093.

These bills, as we shared with you on Tuesday, would allow state or city government to acquire the property that our garden sits on. That would allow us, under the city's supervision, to turn the garden into a permanent, public, green space for the people of Crown Heights.

We would be grateful if you sent your letter of support to

the NYC Parks Commissioner,
NY State Senate (Local Government Committee)
and NY State Assembly (Judiciary Committee).

I've attached a document with addresses.

If you have any questions, it would be my pleasure to address them. I'm reachable at [contact info]. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Saqib Rahim
Roger That community garden

Jan. 23, 2016, 9:34 p.m.
Emily-Bell posted
Updated Letter Writing Party Poster
Updated Letter Writing Party Poster COME! WRITE! SHARE!
Jan. 23, 2016, 3:51 p.m.
Sarah Wessler posted
Letter Writing Party 1/26/2016
Letter Writing Party 1/26/2016 Hi all, please join us on Tuesday for a letter-writing party at Two Saints. As the New York State Senate and Assembly consider proposed legislation in support of the garden, it's important that they see that people care about Roger That and know what's going on. We've been told that this group pays much more attention to physical letters than emails, so we're having a letter-writing party on Tuesday night to knock out as many as possible. Please stop by Two Saints (Nostrand and St. Johns) from 7PM to 9 (possibly later), sign a letter, have a drink, and get to know some of your neighbors. A flyer is attached--please send it around / print and post in your building / etc if able. The more the merrier... Hope to see you on Tuesday!
Jan. 23, 2016, 3:50 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

On 1/6/2016, the senate bill asking for the garden to be acquired by NY State Parks was referred to the Local Government Committee (see http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&bn=S06093&term=2015&Summary=Y&Actions=Y). The members of the NY Senate Local Government Committee are here: https://www.nysenate.gov/committees/local-government

Jan. 11, 2016, 5:16 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

A great video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQ8wXMt-z5A&noredirect=1

Jan. 8, 2016, 9:14 p.m.
paula at 596 acres uploaded
TYC realty's new eviction case - jan 2016
Jan. 8, 2016, 9:12 p.m.
paula at 596 acres posted
This is the garden & mural as they looked in summer 2015
This is the garden & mural as they looked in summer 2015
Jan. 8, 2016, 9:12 p.m.
paula at 596 acres posted
This is the building that used to be here
This is the building that used to be here
Jan. 8, 2016, 9:11 p.m.
paula at 596 acres uploaded
Letter regarding referee appointment
Jan. 8, 2016, 9:10 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

This property was included in the 2000, 2003, 2011, 2013 and 2014 tax lien sales. In 2000, 2003, 2011, and 2013 the owner of record was HUB Hardware, a business that had abandoned the building in 1998. Lobbying by the neighboring Crown Heights Youth Collective finally got the City to remove the dangerous structure in 2007 and created a garden in its place, but HUB remained the owner of record and the debt that accrued did not give the City or the neighbors any leverage over the property. In late 2013, a real estate developer - TYC Realty - became the owner of record via a quitclaim deed. The new owner thus acquired all the debt that ran with the property prior to the transaction and is not subject to the debt that has accrued since. In early 2013, Bank of New York Mellon initiated foreclosure on the 2000, 2003 and 2011 tax lien certificates. That foreclosure proceeding has just resulted in a referral of the property to a referee for sale.

TYC Reality is again attempting to evict the Roger That! Garden via a proceeding in the Civil Court; their interest in the property is subject not only to the outcome of the referee sale, but also to the 2013 and 2014 tax liens, also held by Bank of New York. The payoff amount for all liens accrued is nearly $400,000.

Dec. 14, 2015, 3:06 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

Here is the Parks summary for this district: http://www.ny4p.org/research/d-profiles/2015_36.pdf

It shows that while 19% of land in NYC is parkland, only 4% of the land area in this district is. The district ranks 41st out of 51 in the City for park & playground acres per 1,000 residents (1= highest, 51= lowest; 41 is pretty bad!).

Dec. 14, 2015, 3:01 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

Assembly Member Diana Richardson and Senator Velmanette Montgomery introduced bills at our urging last week aimed at protecting the Roger That! garden as parkland. Both the Assembly (A. 8583) and Senate (S. 6093 ) bills contain this language:

"The legislature hereby finds that it is necessary for a public purpose to procure certain property within the city of New York. To that extent, the commissioner of parks, recreation and historic preservation is hereby directed to take, through the use of the eminent domain procedure as established under the eminent domain procedure law, the parcel in the borough of Brooklyn known as 115 Rogers Avenue, Brooklyn, Block 1233 Lot 1, for a state park and community garden to be managed by neighborhood volunteers through the New York City parks department green thumb program."

Ref: http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&bn=A08583&term=2015&Summary=Y&Text=Y

The Assembly Bill is now being considered by the Judiciary Committee and needs to be approved before it can go to the full assembly for a vote. Here are the committee members:
http://assembly.state.ny.us/comm/?sec=mem&id=24

The Senate bill is being considered by the Finance Committee. Here are the members: https://www.nysenate.gov/committees/finance (senator Montgomery is among them)

Check out this page for sample letters to address to the lawmakers in these committees: http://maplestreetgarden.org/2015/11/23/write-a-letter-to-support-the-garden/ (we made templates you can crib from!).

Nov. 19, 2015, 3:37 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

Some great press from Gothamist:

http://gothamist.com/2015/11/18/community_gardens_ftw.php

3 Beloved Brooklyn Community Gardens Win Important Victories
BY NATHAN TEMPEY IN NEWS ON NOV 18, 2015 3:59 PM

Volunteers at three community gardens are breathing easier after a series of court decisions staving off eviction by developers that each group believes obtained their garden's lot through shady means.

"It's crazy, all of a sudden my garden docket is clear," said Paula Segal, director of the green space advocacy group 596 Acres and lawyer for all three gardens.

On Tuesday, a judge discontinued the eviction case against the Eldert Street Garden in Bushwick. The order to toss the case doesn't specify why, but it comes after members of the green space near Knickerbocker Avenue successfully fought being locked out, saying they had never been served with eviction papers, and challenged the circumstances by which the lot sold for $300,000 last year. The gardeners got permission to use the derelict property in 2009 from board members of the owner, a defunct daycare nonprofit called Alianza de Damas Unidas de Brooklyn.

The 2014 sale was made by other people claiming to represent the board, and netted a middle-man named Ari Hertz $500,000, according to court filings by the Attorney General's Office. Property sales by nonprofits are supposed to be approved by the state attorney general, but this never was, the records indicate. The AG's Office opened an investigation into the sale in April and a lawyer for purported Alianza board president Elba Roman is now fighting a subpoena, filings show.
The buyer, Eldert Bushwick House LLC, had filed to build a four-story building on the plot, but now that its eviction of the gardeners has failed, it is reconsidering its options, representative Harry Schwartz said. Asked if he would challenge the gardeners' use of the property again Schwartz said, "They wanna use the garden, I'm okay with that." He added that the company has no plans to evict "at the moment." Asked if he and his partners still plan to build, he said, "not really."

He acknowledged that "Ari Hertz was the broker," then declined to discuss the transaction further.

In a statement, garden founder Kim Anderson pledged to fight on whatever the developer and law enforcement agencies decide.
"We'll continue to do our best to stay open as a community resource during these challenging times," she said.

The Eldert Street reprieve comes a day after a judge threw out the eviction against Roger That Garden in Crown Heights. Founded in 2006 on Rogers Avenue at Park Place after a long-abandoned hardware store there was demolished and locals tried in vain to contact the hardware store's owner, the garden is under threat from a company called TYC Realty, which claims to have purchased the property from the elusive proprietor for $10 in 2013. The gardeners found out about the eviction in June the week they were supposed to appear in court. TYC lawyers said they had served the gardeners in April, but the gardeners say that is baloney.

The eviction came after TYC tried to fence the gardeners out, filed permits to build a four-story apartment building in the place of their raised beds, and rejected offers to buy the land, upping their demand at one point to $1.5 million. The judge's recent order didn't go into detail, but specified that the developer could serve Segal in the future.

Crown Heights Youth Collective founder and Medgar Evers College history professor Richard Green has been involved in the garden from the beginning. He said the garden is just what New Yorkers need.

"New York City needs green space now more than ever," he said. "Everything’s being moved into buildings. People need space where they can see greenery, and that's what the space provides."

Segal said Roger That members recently found out that the lot has been foreclosed on for nearly $500,000 in tax liens, a fact she said TYC hid from the gardeners. The lot could soon go up for auction, and the gardeners may try to bid on it, she said.
A lawyer for TYC Realty did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The garden is also getting a boost in the form of legislation, proposed by Assemblywoman Diana Richardson and state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, to seize the property using eminent domain and hand it over to the gardeners under the management of the Parks Department. The lawmakers recently finished drafting the bills and are in the process of introducing them.

Montgomery wrote:

Since Roger That! Garden volunteers exercised every effort to secure the property legally and have invested nearly a decade into cultivating a garden beneficial for the entire community, and the current property owners obtained the land through questionable means and have continued to let liens accumulate on the property, we believe the best course of action is to acquire the property through eminent domain and permit Roger That! Garden to flourish.

In Prospect Lefferts Gardens, similar bills have been proposed to take over the Maple Street Garden. The bills face a potentially unfriendly reception in Albany, as Gov. Cuomo vetoed a similar bill seeking to save a Williamsburg senior center from eviction.

The 237 Maple Street property is contested by Jamaica, Queens's Makhani brothers, realtors with histories of criminal and otherwise questionable dealings. The brothers' assertion that they bought the lot for $5,000 from nephews of the deceased owners back in 2003 suffered a setback on November 4th when Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Mark Portnow ruled the transaction "is of dubious validity."
In his decision appointing a guardian to get to the bottom of who the lot belongs to, Portnow noted that the Makhanis, operating through Housing Urban Development LLC (not to be confused with the federal agency), had lied three times in related court filings, had failed to serve the gardeners (though one found a notice in a plant bed nine months after the court case began), that their deed transfer named the two nephews but omitted their contact information, and that it provided no proof that the nephews were the "sole heirs" to the deceased owners. The judge's order bars the developer from interfering with the garden while the guardian investigates.
In October, the Makhanis' LLC filed to build a five-story, 17-unit residential complex on the lot. In an email to DNAinfo, the Makhanis' lawyer Michael Leon said they are the real ones suffering in all of this, and claimed they want to provide below-market rate housing:

The gardeners allege they are benefitting (sic) the community, but in fact they are performing work on the property causing hazards without insurance and creating a nuisance. It is Housing Urban Development who is the victim in this matter and is planning to develop the property with affordable housing for the community.

Nov. 17, 2015, 10:32 p.m.
paula at 596 acres uploaded
An affidavit from Richard Green at the Crown Heights Youth Collective
Nov. 17, 2015, 10:31 p.m.
paula at 596 acres posted
THE EVICTION CASE AGAINST THE GARDENERS HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED (CLICK FOR EVIDENCE)
THE EVICTION CASE AGAINST THE GARDENERS HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED (CLICK FOR EVIDENCE)
Oct. 22, 2015, 3:12 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

Roger That! Garden continues to defend against an eviction. Gardeners were in court this morning and the garden is still open! Save the date for the next court appearance Monday November 16 at 10:15am at 141 Livingston Street, Room 603, Brooklyn.

Sept. 22, 2015, 5:04 p.m.
paula said

Our next court appearance will be on October 22 at 10am at 141 Livingston Street, Brooklyn NY, Room 603 (Landlord Tenant Court, commercial part). This will be a Traverse Hearing - a hearing on whether the papers initiating the lawsuit were properly delivered to the gardener-occupants. Gardeners will testify about how the garden is used.

We need anyone who was at the garden on these dates to testify:

Saturday, April 25 at 4-5pm
Tuesday, April 28 at 11-12pm
Wednesday, April 29 any time
Thursday, June 4 at 3-4pm
Friday, June 5 at 6-7pm
Saturday, June 6 any time

Sept. 1, 2015, 5:49 p.m.
paula said

Here's a really great summary of the Roger That story so far: http://gothamist.com/2015/06/11/crown_heights_community_garden.php

See you in court next week - September 9 at 10am at 141 Livingston Street, Room 603, Brooklyn

June 18, 2015, 1:36 p.m.
Emily Bell said

Hi Roger That!

David and I met with Paula Segal, who is helping to represent the Garden against TYC Realty. Other than being sick and tired of good things being erased across the NYC landscape - making the public aware that the Crown Heights Youth Collective's mural is also at risk is really important as well.

This Saturday afternoon I am going to add some text to our fence that says something along the lines of "MURAL AT RISK - Call Robert Cornegy's Office to Preserve Culture in Crown Heights." With arrows and appropriate phone numbers accompanying. We can also touch up what is already there! We are also going to push this story to the Times through the Visual Artists Act of 1990 and a number of other angles having to do with public art and gentrification.

If you want to come out to paint - join the fun! SATURDAY, 4:00-7:30/8:00 @ Rogers Ave and Park Place. I'll supply materials!

We are also making a plan to FLOOD THE COURTROOM on JULY 7th at 10am (141 Livingston Street at Smith, Room 603) to show the City that people care about this issue and are sick and tired of community resources coming in dead last in the race for NYC's future. PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDARS NOW AND TELL YOUR FRIENDS!