Information about this lot
Why is this lot here?
We posted this lot because:
This land is being stewarded by the following group:
Yesterday, the lawyer of Alianza (the nonprofit that owns the land that gave permission to gardeners) Marissa received a letter from the court saying that the judge decided there can be summary judgement on this case. This means that the judge gave himself permission to decide the case based on LAW alone; in other words, the letter of the law is enough to determine if the sale of the land was legal or not. The alternative would be if the law on the matter was unclear, the case would need to be decided based on facts presented at a trial.
This does not mean the judge will definitely make a summary judgement, but it's a procedural win for community gardeners because the sale was illegal, and we hold that that can be determined based on the law alone. While it's not guaranteed, we are hopeful that a decision that keeps the land in community hands will be rendered soon, and this decision by the judge can help make that possible.
ALL OUT FOR BUSHWICK’S ELDERT STREET GARDEN THIS WEDNESDAY MORNING!
Yep, again: if you’re available this Wednesday, December 20 at 9:30am, Eldert Street Garden needs your help at Brooklyn Supreme Court (360 Adams Street, Room 469)! Please come show the judge that real people care about community space in Bushwick. It could help stave off the garden’s illegal eviction!
Here’s what’s going on: while we have been awaiting the judge’s decision, after years of court dates to fight the illegal sale of the nonprofit land where they grow, the developer that claims to have the right to the land initiated a NEW eviction case, in a different court. They served papers by leaving them at the garden the week before Thanksgiving. If gardeners didn’t respond, they could get evicted by default!
Gardeners and their lawyer achieved a temporary stay on this claim last week (a “stay” means the court rules to halt further legal processes). Now this week, we’re going BACK to the court where we've been arguing the first case to argue why the stay should be extended while the real decision comes in.
Especially if you’ve never been to court before, this is a great, educational opportunity to observe this particular kind of local theater where very big things get decided. See you there!
Wednesday's hearing for the Eldert Street garden is again postponed. The garden can keep growing while all the parties in the case and the Attorney General's office consider a possible resolution or moving ahead to arguments before the judge. I will let you know if the appearance is calendared - likely early July.
Paula Z. Segal, Senior Staff Attorney
Equitable Neighborhoods Practice
Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center
123 William St, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10038"
At the request of the attorney for Eldert Bushwick House LLC (EBH), tomorrow's court hearing has been postponed to June 7 because the NY Attorney General's office continues to work on this!
The letter from the lawyer letter says: "EBH is actively engaged in meaningful settlement discussions with the Charities Bureau of the NY Attorney General's Office, which we hope will bring about a negotiated resolution of all issues in this action. The additional month requested should be sufficient time to conclude our discussion with the Attorney General's Office."
Bushwick, Brooklyn - Eldert Street Garden is back in Brooklyn Supreme Court next week! On Wednesday, April 26 at 10am, at 360 Adams Street, Room 469, be there to say THANK YOU to the NY State Attorney General's office staff for investigating the way the garden was sneakily sold out from under the gardeners, & to show the judge that you care about this community greenspace. Sign up to Organize for updates here: https://livinglotsnyc.org/lot/3034130063/
Wednesday's court appearance has been postponed due to the impending snowstorm! From the Eldert Street Garden facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/eldertstreetgarden):
"Concerning ESG's appearance in court on Wed March 15:
Court has been postponed due to the impending snowstorm. However, we may have some important news on the horizon concerning the future of the garden! We will keep you posted.
Thanks again to everyone for your ongoing support, offers to appear in court, donations, etc.!
And remember, snowstorms aside, we are nearing gardening season. Please reach out to us if you are interested in volunteering, having a plot for the season, or otherwise getting involved. "
Bushwick, Brooklyn – On Wednesday, March 15 at 9:30am, we are returning to court to fight forEldert Street Garden! The New York State Attorney General’s Office is investigating the suspicious transfer of the deed to the garden’s land. Show up to show your support for the efforts of the elected Attorney General: Brooklyn Supreme Court, 360 Adams Street, room 469. Connect to founding garden member Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org, connect via facebookhere, and sign up to Organize here: http://livinglotsnyc.org/lot/3034130063/
We had a great showing this morning. We introduced ourselves to our new judge, who now knows this is a case that is important to the community. We also met the lawyers for the Romans and the developer who bought the property. See pictures attached. DNAinfo was there with us. They will be posting a story tonight.
We will return to court for oral arguments on January 11, 2017, same time / same place, for oral arguments on Alianza's motion for summary judgement (asking for the deed to be declared void based simply on the fact that this charity transaction was not approved by the Attorney General as required by law) and on the motions that the Romans and the developer have filed to dismiss our case.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS:
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 11, 2017
360 ADAMS STREET, ROOM 469
Join us in court on Wednesday morning at 9:30am in Brooklyn to protect Eldert Street Garden.
Brooklyn Supreme Court, 360 Adams Street, Room 469.
In the words of the Eldert Street Garden Facebook Page:
"Good day amigas y amigos. Thank you for spending a warm and wonderful Mother's day with us at the garden. Here is a story and an interview with Kim Anderson channel 12, Brooklyn news did of us yesterday during the event. Have a great spring and stay gardening!"
Great press from DNAinfo:
Some great press from Gothamist:
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.
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.
Eldert Bushwick House LLC has been ordered to provide gardeners access to the Eldert Street Garden at the following times to take care of the plants and animals:
Wed., Sept 30, 1-3pm;
Fri., Oct 2, 4-6pm;
Wed., Oct 7, 1-3pm;
Fri., Oct 9, 4-6pm;
Tues., Oct 13, 1-3pm;
Fri., Oct 16, 4-6pm;
Tues., Oct. 20, 1-3pm;
Fri., Oct. 23, 4-6pm.
THOSE ARE ALL GOOD TIMES TO BE AT THE GARDEN TO HELP CARE AND TO MAKE SURE THAT "ELDERT BUSHWICK" COMPLIES.
And we're back in court on October 27 at 10:15am (141 Livingston Street at Smith, Room 603). We had a great group today. Let's be just as strong in a month!
Here is some great press about the win from Gothamist: http://gothamist.com/2015/09/24/gardeners_abruptly_evicted_from_bus.php
Gardeners Stave Off Eviction From Bushwick Green Space They Say Was Fraudulently Bought
BY NATHAN TEMPEY IN NEWS ON SEP 24, 2015 10:40 AM
Keyholders at a Bushwick community garden clipped the lock around their green oasis on Wednesday evening after a housing court judge halted their eviction. On Tuesday morning, Eldert Street Garden co-founder Kim Anderson was tending the green space, a lot between two houses near Knickerbocker Avenue, when a marshal arrived with a man she'd never seen before named Abe Berne, a representative of Eldert Bushwick House LLC. They were packing eviction papers.
Anderson was confused. She says she and the 15 or so others who have regular access to the garden—and its 10 vegetable plots, curved path, and bright murals—were prepared for the possibility of having their presence challenged, but had never been served with eviction notices.
"I suppose they could have decided to serve them to a random person standing outside the garden, but no one at the garden is stupid and think if eviction papers come we'll just set them on fire and it'll be fine," she said.
Founded in 2009 by Anderson and friend Rodrigo Gonzalez, the garden has been in peril since last fall, when she says men in unmarked vans started clipping the lock on the gate. Then, in September of 2014, a property record showed up indicating the lot had been sold to Eldert Bushwick House, represented by a man named Harry Schwartz, for $300,000. In January, the company filed to build a four-story house on the lot.
What's strange about all of this requires some explanation. In 1988, a company called M. Lahm Knitting Mills bought the lot at a city auction. Ten years later, it donated it to a nonprofit called Alianza de Damas Unidas de Brooklyn, which ran a daycare in the neighborhood. It continued to sit, unused except for people dumping garbage and construction debris, until Anderson says she and Gonzalez got in touch with two board members—the nonprofit apparently ceased operation sometime in the 2000s—and got permission to start a garden there.
The agreement was entirely verbal, and Anderson says they don't even know who the other board members are, but that the two who they were in touch with expressed shock when told the garden had been sold.
Reached by phone, gardener contact and board member Aurea Byron said, "I don't know why you people keep bothering me. I told them at the garden I don't wanna hear from anybody about that." Byron is elderly and may have been referring to investigators from the Attorney General's Office's Charities Bureau, which is probing the sale.
On the sale record, a woman who shares a name with longtime local politico and activist Elba Roman signed off on behalf of Alianza, but the transaction wasn't approved by the Attorney General, as is required. Board president Heriberto Mateo swore in an affidavit that the nonprofit's leadership never approved the sale.
Still, Anderson says men kept appearing last year, once dumping wheelbarrows and furniture onto a perennials bed. Then came the building permits, though the city has blocked their approval, because the application is incomplete, according to a Buildings Department spokesman. In April, Anderson says, workers showed up with boards and locks to barricade the garden and were surprised to find people there. A phone conversation with Schwartz ended, she says, with him cursing her out and her telling him to call her lawyer. Yesterday morning, there was the marshal with the eviction notice. Anderson says she tried to explain that gardeners had been on the lookout for papers and never gotten any.
"I'm going, 'Whoa, how was it possible you have this?'" Anderson said. The marshal told her the papers had been served on a brunette female who refused to give her name.
Behind the locked gate were thousands of dollars worth of gardening equipment, plus the garden itself, which hosts a neighborhood composting program, kids' classes, performances, and recently, a block party and a wedding. Also, there was Mr. Grey, a stray cat they had taken to feeding, who now lives in the garden and needs anti-parisite medication.
The gardeners' attorney Paula Segal filed emergency court papers on Wednesday and a judge agreed to lift the eviction till a court hearing on Friday. Segal is deeply suspicious of the process by which the gardeners lost access to the lot, but she doesn't know who to blame.
"I think that somewhere in here there's a bad actor," she said.
Bushwick Councilman Rafael Espinal said that he is also concerned about the garden sale.
"The garden has been a fixture in the community for years," he said. "It's been a hub for local residents who create recreational activities."
"Overall, it just smells really fishy, and we want to make sure that the garden is in the neighborhood," he added.
Anderson emphasized that she and Gonzalez have backgrounds in landscaping and that the garden, where one volunteer is in the midst of making a turtle pond and another is planning a vertical garden, is "uniquely artistic." She said also that it is a resource for families in a homeless shelter next door, and for everyone in the immediate neighborhood.
"People really let us know that it means a lot that it's there, that it offers a moment of respite," she said. "Just a little, quiet, leafy place to just be a human being."
Schwartz declined to comment.
Gonzalez, a New York native and 10-year resident of the block, said the alleged land grab makes sense given the new construction, renovations, and rising rents that have arrived outside the front gate. He said the garden served as a "neutral ground" to meet with elected officials when he and 100 others were evicted from the loft building at 345 Eldert St. With the latest court notice freshly affixed to the gate affirming his right to be there, Gonzalez clipped the lock on Wednesday afternoon and fed the cat.
"He was so upset," Gonzalez said. "He was going, 'What are you doing?'"
The lot that the garden was on was donated to a local charity organization for use as a children’s garden; its recent transfer to a private for-profit corporation is under investigation by the New York State Office of the Attorney General. The gardeners are asserting their rights as tenants under New York City law and continuing to grow in the face of bullying by the developer. They are asking that the City halt all construction permits to the property and acquire it for transfer to the Parks Department.
The alleged owner is attempting to lock the gardeners out and get permits for construction.
Eldert Street Garden in Bushwick, a space that was established on vacant lot in 2009. Elder Street offers vegetable plots, educational programming for kids and adults, composting, and a welcoming public space where folks can relax and connect with the natural world.
Kim Anderson, one Eldert Street garden steward, says, “For those of us without a private garden to grow in, or a forest to walk in, community gardens are all we have. When we work in our community gardens, we take back our fundamental right to work the land, and call a piece of earth our own, no matter how small. And we do it together.”
The lot that the garden was on was donated to a local charity organization for use as a children’s garden.