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Mandela Garden

Information about this lot

There are 3 lots grouped here:
  • Manhattan block 1932, lot 5 (269-67 WEST 126 STREET). More details at OASIS.
  • Manhattan block 1932, lot 7 (265 WEST 126 STREET). More details at OASIS.
  • Manhattan block 1932, lot 107 (263 WEST 126 STREET). More details at OASIS.
Known Use: community green space
Address: 265 WEST 126 STREET, Manhattan, 10027
Area: 0.15 acres (6693 square feet)

Political Boundaries

City Council District 9 represented by Kristin Richardson Jordan
Community District Manhattan 10 ( / 212.749.3105 ), district manager: Andrew Lassalle
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 green space.
  • Neighbors got access to it with the help of 596 Acres.
  • In MapPLUTO the city lists this lot's landuse as vacant.
  • In MapPLUTO the city lists this lot's building class as vacant.

Government Agency

New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (public)
Contact: Miriam Gonzalez (212-863-6555 /

Housing Preservation and Development is not granting interim licenses now. The only way to have the community access this lot is by getting it transferred to another agency. Look below for Pathways that will guide you.

You can call Ms. Gonzalez at the number listed above and find out if there are any plans for this lot.


This land is being stewarded by the following group:

Rene Calvo, 917 275 6577

we have contacted green thumb and are requesting permission for access.

News feed

Feb. 14, 2018, 2:51 p.m.
mara at 596 acres said

email from the garden:

Hey Everybody

I have confirmation from Arielle Goldberg at HPD that we will have another season at Mandela Garden. I am really excited to see the blooms this year as the garden is maturing and this season will be even better than the last.

Kenneth Williams has indicated that we can get another truckload of earth to put on The Trümmerbergs. I am working on expediting this with him.

We have a grant from Citizens Committee to plant 7 trees. As you may know a copse of native North American fruit trees on the north side of the garden is part of the original plan. They will even send the volunteers over to do it for us. Yes I know this is brazenly optimistic but let's continue to go for it 100%

We are still working with CB10 to get a strong resolution in support of the garden as a tool for going forward. Karen Horry of Parks and Charles Powell of Housing are providing leadership for this. Send your gratitude their way.

For tomorrow's meeting these garden members have confirmed that they will be in attendance:

Robin Dickens (will be providing leadership)
Sarika Jain Patel
Krishan Patel
Paulina Concha
Emily Rodriguez
Drake Pearson
Aziz Dehkan will also be in attendance and will be bringing a group from NYCCG (Ray?)

This is a nice solid core of fierce advocates and I extend my gratitude to everyone. Please encourage anyone who cares about gardens, cares about the earth and cares about the future to come. Their presence is a powerful reminder to our elected leaders that we are watching.

The Meeting is at:
215 W125th St.
3rd floor conference room

Jan. 23, 2018, 10:45 p.m.
Rene said

Noted with thanks.

Jan. 23, 2018, 8:19 p.m.
Mara at 596 Acres said

Email sent to the garden list:

CB10 meeting Wednesday January 24th at 6pm.
215 West 125th St. 4th floor.

Proposed resolution:
Whereas Nelson Mandela Community Garden celebrates a peacemaker who set an inspirational standard for non-violent redress of institutional inequality and who was himself a gardener that spoke eloquently of the purpose of gardening.

Whereas Harlem has historically been a safe haven for the African diaspora and honors it’s leaders both national and international.

Whereas the time and energy that has been invested in this site cannot be replaced nor the community that has formed around it.

Whereas Mandela Garden serves as a practical as well as instructional location for the mitigation of climate change

Whereas Mandela Garden provides much needed permeable space for storm water relief.

Whereas Mandela Garden is a unique and irreplaceable habitat for migratory birds and insects and participates in scientific research tracking those animals.

Whereas Mandela Garden provides a place for quiet contemplation in a neighborhood where Community Board 10 has already determined that there is a paucity of green-space.

Whereas Mandela Garden serves the children of Harlem by providing a place where they get hands on experience in science and biology as it relates to food production, bio diversity and ecology.

Whereas HPD has declared that there are no other sites in Harlem of comparable size or with similar community access or sunlight

Therefore Community Board 10 unequivocally endorses the transfer of Mandela Community Garden from HPD to Parks jurisdiction so that it may enjoy the rights and protection afforded by said transfer.

It is very important that we have a strong presence at this meeting. Please let me know if you can be a designated speaker.

Please amplify to your mail lists and supporters.

Jan. 18, 2018, 1:51 p.m.
mara at 596 acres said

Rene says:

Greetings from Mandela Garden

Please save this date:
CB10 meeting Wednesday January 24th at 6pm.
215 West 125th St. 4th floor.

Our meeting with HPD was informative. They are completely obstinate about even considering changing their plans or offering us a real alternative.

Gale Brewer the borough president has suggested that our position be that the garden is more important than the Lemor Real Estate project. Since all attempts at a dialog have failed I agree with that position.

Ms Brewer has asked that we obtain an endorsement from the full board of CB10. To that end we have organized a meeting with them on Wednesday January 24th at 6pm at 215 West 125th St. 4th floor.

It is very important that we have a strong presence at this meeting. Please let me know if you can be a designated speaker.

Please amplify to your mail lists and supporters.

Oct. 15, 2017, 3:42 p.m.
mara at 596 acres uploaded
CB 10 letters to HPD in defense of Mandela Garden! [from the Mandela garden newsletter]: Good News From CB 10! CB10 went beyond expectations and authored, to Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), a detailed response in defense of Mandela Garden. There is still a long ways to go but this is a strong start. Send an email to this address if you are interested in seeing a copy and/or participating in negotiations with the city.
May 20, 2017, 5:59 p.m.
mara at 596 acres said

Last Thursday, May 18, Harlem community land stewards, joined by gardeners from across the city, advocated again for the preservation of this vital green space before Community Board 10 Land Use Committee. Advocates are working to ensure residents get actually affordable housing and the greenspace that they need. Here's what Rene said in an email (emphasis added):

There are 2000 NYCHA apartments that are uninhabitable due to lack of maintenance*. There are 500 truly vacant lots in Manhattan and 17,000+ vacant buildings†. The city owns a big chunk of them. They can take this project to another location and save the garden.

Karen Horry Chair of Parks has also stated that: There has already been a review conducted in Harlem and it has been determined that there is a paucity of green-space. So why take away a thriving community garden?

Let's move the discussion away from the debatable (is this development truly serving the community?) and towards the undeniable.

We can have both.


April 18, 2017, 1:23 p.m.
mara at 596 acres said

just in from rene:

Hello Team

The date for the meeting with land use has been moved from this Thursday to this Friday April 21st at 6pm. We have been guaranteed the presence of the Land Use Chair Manny Rivera. Apparently they are the only obstacle in getting frull support from CB10. Please let me know if you can attend and if you wish to be a speaker. I'd like to round up 10 supporters.

Can you join? Can you speak?

CONTACT HIM TO SIGN UP: Rene Calvo, 917 275 6577

April 17, 2017, 12:56 a.m.
mara at 596 acres said

email from rene - Apr 13 (4 days ago):

Thank you all for coming last night.

Thank you speakers and surprise speakers for your intelligent, eloquent and impassioned defense of community gardens. The case you made was indisputable and the Parks committee is absolutely on our side.

Unfortunately our target audience the Land Use Committee did not show up.

So this time we take it directly to their next scheduled meeting

*Thursday April 20th 630pm *
*215 West 125th St. 4th Floor *

If you can make it please RSVP so I can begin to put a team together.

Wine, cider and snacks at The Harlem Flophouse immediately after.

April 4, 2017, 8:26 p.m.
Mara at 596 acres said

Nelson Mandela Community Garden is presenting their garden preservation plan before CB10's Land Use Committee on Wednesday April 12th 215 West 125th, Street 4th Floor!

March 9, 2017, 1:06 p.m.
mara at 596 acres said

Here's the email I got from Rene's this morning sharing exciting news!

On March 8th the Parks and Recreation [Committee of Manhattan CB 10] voted unanimously to support the transfer of Nelson Mandela Community Garden from HPD to Parks. While the battle is not over, this is an important step forward in our fight for preservation.

I would like to extend special thanks to CB10 P&R chair Karen Horry and James Gigi for their wisdom and support. Thank members of our community who showed up and made your voices heard. And I would especially like to thank Cindy Worley and Project Harmony which shall be known henceforth as "The Mother of all Gardens" :-)

With Gratitude

Great job community land organizers and advocates. Onwards!

March 6, 2017, 11:45 a.m.
Rene said

I laugh every time I read that quote.

March 6, 2017, 10:29 a.m.
mara at 596 acres said

At NYC Lot, Housing, Opportunity and Open Space Converge


In Harlem, Rene Calvo isn’t buying it, no matter how affordable the building may or may not be in the end. The owner and operator of Harlem Flophouse, whose grandfather formerly ran a bodega in East Harlem, wants to know why the city is moving forward with building on this particular site while there are an estimated 2,300 or so vacant units in public housing due to disrepair, and another estimated 1,100 vacant buildings throughout the city that could be made available for affordable housing development.

He also points to the city’s continued tax lien sales, in which the city sells outstanding property tax or water and sewage debt to investors. Many of these properties end up settling debts by selling themselves to the investors who buy the debt, often jeopardizing their status as affordable housing. Calvo says instead of selling debt to investors, the city could use the debt as leverage to bring properties into permanent affordable housing status.

“Explain to me how this is benefiting the community,” says Calvo. “Really, explain to me how it’s justified to give away publicly owned land to a developer to build housing for rich people. Justify that to me, and I’ll go away.”

Calvo organized several hundred signatures from community members back in 2014 to create the Mandela Community Garden at the same 126th Street site now targeted for development. As with all new community gardens, Calvo and his fellow organizers promised HPD initially that it would be an interim garden. The group invested about a year of work de-paving the lot by hand, using all volunteer labor. Their hope was that it could someday become permanent. It wasn’t exactly a pipe dream; at the end of 2015, the city announced 34 “interim” community gardens had been transferred to the Parks Department, giving them permanent status. Mandela Garden didn’t make the cut at the time, but Calvo has no plans to give up the garden without a fight.

Mandela Community Garden organizers, HPD and the developer team have time to hash things out. As with all transfers of city-owned land to developers, the site will have to undergo the various steps and pre-steps for the city’s Universal Land Use Review Procedure or ULURP (you-lurp), as it’s known. The whole thing, including a pre-ULURP environmental impact study, could take up to two years from now before any breaking ground can occur.

Morrison says his staff have considered working with the garden organizers to preserve some ground-floor space for the garden, but have not yet reached out, leaving the task of working out the details with Calvo and others to HPD for now. Under the city’s ULURP process, the person with the final say in the matter is effectively the local council member, Bill Perkins, who was just elected in a special election to replace predecessor Inez Dickens (who was elected to New York’s State Assembly in November).

Calvo held a meeting last week at Harlem Flophouse to strategize how to reach out to the council member, who held the seat previously from 1998 to 2005.

“If you’ve noticed there’s been a dramatic change in the political environment,” Calvo says. “All levels of government are being challenged as to what their true affiliations are.”

Jan. 18, 2017, 4:18 p.m.
Alicia@596acres said

Sign and share the petition to save Mandela Garden!

Jan. 13, 2017, 1:23 p.m.
paula said

263-267 West 126th Street, Central Harlem, Manhattan. It will include a restaurant, space for a tech company and 29 units of affordable housing.

Dec. 30, 2016, 9:59 a.m.
mara at 596 acres said

"From its humble beginnings as a Harlem parking lot, the Mandela Community Garden has grown into a rich garden and community fixture in a very short time." Beautiful video about Mandela Garden here:

Aug. 24, 2016, 1:19 p.m.
mara @ 596 acres uploaded
View the community's proposal for Mandela Park, 2014 This proposal included a petition with 180 signatures and letters of support from the community. The community gardeners were able to gain the support of Manhattan Community Board 10 before passing the plan onto NYC's GreenThumb program, which responded by making this this former vacant lot an official community garden in September 2014!
Aug. 3, 2016, 10:28 p.m.
paula at 596 acres posted
René says: Hello Everybody If you are interested in being a garden steward I will be training people tomorrow, August 4, from 5:30 to 7pm. The training takes about 30 minutes. RSVP please: harlemmandelagarden [at] (If you would like to arrange another time you can email, too.) About: Mandela Garden is a refuge for Native North American Wildflowers. We harvest rainwater for our raised beds. Our goal is to make the garden completely sustainable. You can help by volunteering to maintain the garden (weeding and watering). You can also express your support of community green spaces by tweeting to Mayor DeBlasio directly. @BilldeBlasio use #savemandelagarden
April 7, 2016, 12:51 p.m.
paula at 596 acres posted
This is the BEFORE picture, thanks to Google
This is the BEFORE picture, thanks to Google
Dec. 30, 2015, 11:03 p.m.
rene calvo leader said

First I must say that today is a great victory for city gardeners. I sincerely congratulate those whose parcels were placed beyond the grasp of the developers. For the 34 gardens that were saved the Mayor deserves to be commended.

But I also have to reveal that there was never any attempt to really engage the community in the decision making process. They came into the room with their list finalized. Basically what they have told us is that they are going to take this land away from our community but they are going to hold our hands while they’re doing it. That is how they are “better than the previous administration.” As one open space advocate put it “If that is what the DeBlasio administration means by transparency then we are going to need to write a new dictionary.”

Our corner of Harlem where The Nelson Mandela garden is located, in particular has been battered by massive housing projects. All of them luxury housing. All of them on land given away by the city. Our garden represents an attempt by Harlemites to claim one piece of it before every square inch is gone.

For decades the city has given away lot after lot of public land. Land that is owned by the people of New York City. Now that it is all gone they are coming for the gardens proclaiming: If you want affordable housing these are the only places left for us to build it on.

The community has been promised “affordable housing” before and we’ve never seen any of it. If they are talking about the $250,000.00 apartments available at “below market” I don’t know any poor people who can afford that. I don’t know many people period that have a $50,000 deposit lying around in their bank accounts. The perception in the community is that most of these units end go to political cronies. I don’t need to mention which Harlem politician ended up with three of them.

We find the claims of City disingenuous. If they really want to build affordable housing why not start with the enormous stock of empty buildings that they are currently warehousing?

It all comes down to money and location. These gardens are in the wrong place at the right time. All you have to do is follow the money.

more to come.

Dec. 30, 2015, 7:08 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

An RFP for the construction of housing has been issued for this site:

Developers' responses are due February 23, 2016.

Nov. 23, 2015, 10:13 a.m.
meredith posted
Here is what this lot looked like before neighbors transformed it with 596 Acres’ help (google took this picture in 2007)!
Sept. 9, 2014, 11:24 a.m.
Mary @ 596 Acres said

From Rasheed Hislop at GreenThumb: "Congratulations and welcome to the GreenThumb family! Registration of the Mandela Community Garden is complete."


July 29, 2014, 9:20 a.m.
Mary @ 596 Acres said

From the Mandela Park Newsletter:


We have received a site visit from Green Thumb. They would like to work on securing the compromised sections of fencing before issuing a license. Their reasoning is that it is easier to get HPD to fix the fence before the land is transferred to Parks.

The application for a garden license from Green Thumb requires a minimum of 10 members. We need contact phone numbers and land addresses from our members to complete the application.

How you can help:
Please send us your phone number and land address for the Green Thumb application.

We need volunteers to help research and co-ordinate a depaving project.

Please contact: Rene Calvo

July 8, 2014, 4:19 p.m.
Mary @ 596 Acres said

The future Mandela Park received unanimous support from the Executive Committee of Manhattan Community Board 10 at the meeting on June 25th! They now have everything they need to submit their application to GreenThumb.

June 13, 2014, 10:06 a.m.
Paula at 596 Acres said

I spoke to Rene about the Community Board meeting - it went really well and everyone was won over BUT by the time it was time to vote, the Board no longer had quorum. An official vote is being put off until September. Rene is reaching out to GreenThumb in the meantime...

June 10, 2014, 10:44 a.m.
Paula at 596 Acres said

From Rene:

Thank you for your support for Mandela Park in Harlem

Tomorrow 6:30pm:

CB 10 Parks and Recreation Committee meeting Wednesday Juen 11th 6:30 PM the location is 215 west 125th, street 3rd floor conference room.


Petition and letters of support have been submitted. A requirement that we reach out to Unity Funeral Chapel has been met. (They were promised the space by the city for expansion. That project is now stalled.)Everything appears to be in order for a positive outcome on Wednesday

We Need You.

This is it. This is the vote. If there is one meeting you come to all year this is it. We are on the agenda. Come to the CB 10 parks and rec meeting. Sign in. Briefly identify yourself and express why you support Mandela Park during the introductions at the beginning. You can remain for the rest of the meeting OR wait a polite amount of time. Exit.

We could still use some more individual/business letters of support.

PDF signed letters to me ASAP.

June 3, 2014, 4:15 p.m.
Paula at 596 Acres said


I have had a phone conversation with Mrs. Karen Horry, Parks and Rec Chair, and she seems to indicate that everything is in order. She requested a separate letter addressing ONLY our understanding that this will be a temporary garden. She also asked me to address soil toxicity in another letter. I have informed her that any produce grown for consumption will be done in containers. Wildflowers will be cultivated on open land to ameliorate contamination over time. Both of those letters in PDF form have been submitted.

Please come to the CB 10 meeting. Sign in. Write your purpose is to support Mandela Park. During the introductions at the beginning briefly identify yourself and express why you support Mandela Park . You can remain for the rest of the meeting or... Wait a polite amount of time. Exit.

Please send emails of
support directly to:

CB10 parks and recreation chair Karen Ann Horry

and to

CB10 Chair Stanley Gleaton

or PDFs of signed letters from businesses or individuals to me ASAP.

June 3, 2014, 10:20 a.m.
Rene said

Thanks guys!

June 3, 2014, 10:08 a.m.
Paula at 596 Acres said

From Rene and the Mandala Garden Crew:

Wednesday June 4th 6:30pm:
Manhattan Community Board 10 Final full session before summer break: Community Board 10 next General Board Meeting will be held on June 4, 2014 at 6:00PM at the Oberia Dempsey Multi Services Center located at 127 West 127th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Blvd and Malcolm X Blvd..

A Proposal, Petition with 180 signatures and letters of support from the community have been submitted to the Parks and Recreation committee. We are asking for a letter of support from CB10. Housing Preservation and Development have already stated that the land is available for a temporary community garden.

Come to the CB 10 meeting. Sign in. Write your purpose is to support Mandela Park. During the introductions at the beginning briefly identify yourself and express why you support Mandela Park . You can remain for the rest of the meeting or... Wait a polite amount of time. Exit.

April 16, 2014, 11:13 a.m.
Mary @ 596 Acres said

Rene let me know that the CB 10 seems to be generally supportive of Mandela Park but have requested some petition signatures and business endorsements.

April 10, 2014, 4:24 p.m.
Mary @ 596 Acres said

Rene - How did the CB meeting go?!

April 2, 2014, 1:33 p.m.
Mary @ 596 Acres said

This group is on the agenda for CB 10's next Parks, Recreation & Transportation meeting. Join them:
April 9th at 6:30 pm!
215 West 125th
Street, 3rd Floor Conference Room

March 12, 2014, 11:19 a.m.
Mary @ 596 Acres said

Have y'all heard back from GreenThumb yet about your amazing proposal?

Feb. 10, 2014, 11:32 a.m.
Paula at 596 Acres said

Here's the email from GreenThumb's Deputy Director, Roland Chouloute, whose last day at GreenThumb was last Friday:

From: "Chouloute, Roland (Parks)"
Date: Feb 6, 2014 6:37 PM

Hi Rene,

We have some good news for you. Please proceed and send us a garden proposal for this site. Your next steps now include contacting Community Board 10 seeking a letter of support and also writing a stipulation letter to HPD affirming that you and your fellow gardeners understand and accept to garden at this site temporarily until HPD decides they need it back for development. Below are the info for the CB

Manhattan 10 Community District Information
Chairperson: Henrietta Lyle
District Manager: Paimaan Lodhi, AICP
Address: 215 West 125th Street, New York, NY, 10027
Phone: 212-749-3105 Email:
Meeting Information: 215 West 125th Street, New York, NY 10027

Feb. 10, 2014, 11:21 a.m.
Paula at 596 Acres said

That's awesome! Connect with Josh at Harlem Valley garden - they just worked with CB 10 and got approval. - click the "+" next to "organizing history" to see how things went and get his contact info.

Feb. 6, 2014, 8:14 p.m.
renecalvo said

Preliminary approval from HPD via Green Thumb. Need endorsement from cb 10.