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Green Valley Community Garden & Farmers Market (formerly Powell Street Block Association)

Information about this lot

There are 5 lots grouped here:
  • Powell Street Block Association- New Lots Ave (93 NEW LOTS AVENUE). More details at OASIS.
  • Brooklyn block 3857, lot 24 (103 NEW LOTS AVENUE). More details at OASIS.
  • Brooklyn block 3857, lot 25 (101 NEW LOTS AVENUE). More details at OASIS.
  • Brooklyn block 3857, lot 26 (99 NEW LOTS AVENUE). More details at OASIS.
  • Brooklyn block 3857, lot 27 (95 NEW LOTS AVENUE). More details at OASIS.
Known Use: community garden
Address: 103 NEW LOTS AVENUE, Brooklyn, 11212
Area: 0.07 acres (2862 square feet)
More information about this lot at OASIS

Political Boundaries

City Council District 42 represented by Charles Barron
Community District Brooklyn 16 ( / 718-385-0323 ), district manager: Viola D. Greene-Walker
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.

Government Agency

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (public)
Contact: GreenThumb Deputy Director Carlos Martinez ((212) 602-5329 /

Urban Renewal

These lots are part of the Brownsville II urban renewal plan.


This land is being stewarded by the following group:

Powell Street Block Association- New Lots Ave

News feed

Sept. 18, 2017, 11:24 a.m.
mara at 596 acres said

Ebenezer Plaza Approved by City Council

City Council • ULURP • Brownsville, Brooklyn
09/18/2017 • Leave a Comment

City Council approved the development of Ebenezer Plaza that will bring affordable housing, jobs, and a new church space to Brownsville, Brooklyn. On September 7, 2017, City Council passed two land use actions by a vote of 45-0 to allow for the development of a mixed-used plaza in Brownsville. The actions enact a zoning map amendment that allows mixed-use development, and a zoning text amendment that establishes a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing area. The affected area is located north of Hegeman Avenue between Mother Gaston Boulevard and Powell Street. For CityLand’s prior coverage click here.

The project came to fruition when the Church of God of East Flatbush partnered with Brisa Builders Corporation, a family-owned and community-oriented developer, to create a mixed-use plaza on some property owned by the Church. Brisa Builders then partnered with Procida Companies to increase the project’s capacity. The new plaza is expected to contain 4 affordable residential buildings on 2 lots, retail space marketed to local community organizations, and new walking space between existing residences and the Brownsville Recreational Center.

This project will provide over 500 units of affordable housing. 20% of the units will be reserved for the homeless in the community. A (now formerly) homeless individual can get a studio apartment for $215 and a 3-bedroom apartment for $512. The remaining 80% of the units will be divided into 4 equal groups according to Average Median Income (“AMI”) as follows: 10-27% AMI, 27-37% AMI, 37-47% AMI, and 47-57% AMI. Thus, all units are available to those who earn 60% or less of the Average Median Income. This focus on affordability will protect community residents from displacement.

The July 27th public hearing raised concerns about decision-making and profit-sharing among the developers. All of these concerns have been addressed. At the September 7th City Council meeting, Council Member Inez Barron, the representative of District 42 where this project will occur, was pleased to announce that there will be equal profit-sharing among the developers, and that Ericka Keller Wala of Brisa Builders, who initiated this project, will be in charge of hiring.

Local hiring for both the project’s construction and for filling the retail space is a high priority. The project will partner with local non-profits for hiring connections, and has a target of 50% minority- and women-owned business participation for the commercial space. Council Member Barron hopes this project will set an example for the promotion of minority- and women-owned businesses. Of importance to Barron is not just the representation, but the significant involvement of minority- and women-owned businesses in the decision-making process.

Barron also expressed concerns about interference with the Green Valley Community Garden that she fought hard for as a Council Member. A shadow study revealed disruption from 12-3 PM in the winter months. As a result, the developer committed to funding grow lights for the garden.

The Church of God of East Flatbush will transfer their operations to new space within one of the residential buildings. The Church provides extensive benefits to the community—they run a non-profit, a GED program, an English Second Language (ESL) program, as well as a food pantry and food bank. With the development of new space for the Church, they will be able to expand these operations to reach more people.

Council Member Barron wants the public to know that this project is named after Ebenezer from the Bible, not A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer’s story marked the significance of being victorious in battle. With a sharp focus on affordable housing, local hiring, and community benefits, Ebenezer Plaza is a victory for the community.

CC: Ebenezer Plaza, Brooklyn (LU 0718-2017; LU 0719-2017) (Sept. 7, 2017).

By: Shelby Hoffman (Shelby is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2017.)

Feb. 1, 2017, 7:44 p.m.
mara at 596 acres said

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Green Valley Community Farm saved from $1 sale to private developer
Community garden will continue its 20-year tradition of serving fresh produce to New Yorkers

Brooklyn, N.Y. — A revered Brooklyn community garden and farm was saved from demolition after Mayor de Blasio cancelled plans to sell the city land to a private housing developer for just $1. The Mayor’s announcement comes after a protracted multiyear fight about the future of the Green Valley Community Farm, including eviction threats and legal action.

“The Green Valley Community Farm victory ensures that farmers can continue the garden’s 20 year legacy of growing and distributing fresh produce for Brooklyn residents,” said Paula Segal, attorney at the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center and founder of 596 Acres.

596 Acres, a nonprofit organization that advocates for community land access, triggered a campaign to save the farm after uncovering a list of 18 active garden sites that the New York City Housing Preservation and Development department (HPD) was willing to sell to developers for $1 each. 596 Acres supported local organizing around this site and others threatened citywide.

596 Acres alerted community gardeners throughout New York City and a fight for the future of open space ensued. In December 2015, after a year of rallies, letters and phone calls, Mayor de Blasio announced that 15 of the active garden sites on HPD’s list would be transferred to the Parks Department and permanently preserved as community-managed spaces, along with 21 others that also existed only because of interim use agreements. The move was applauded by park advocates and elected leaders, including New York City Council Member Inez Baron. Just three months later, Green Valley gardeners received notice from the city that only 20 percent of the farm — 1,600 square feet — was transferred, with the rest still slated for private development.

Green Valley finally won the fight this week after the Community Development Project demonstrated to the administration that the stewards were ready to defend the land in landlord-tenant court and to file their own lawsuit against the City.

“We are suspending plans at this site,” Mayor Bill deBlasio’s office said in a statement on Monday, January 30. “The City has been in communications with Green Valley since 2015 about the extent to which they can continue to use the site as a garden, as there was a misunderstanding about the garden’s boundaries in the initial agreement. All things considered, the City has concluded it would be best to allow the garden to remain on the full site.”

“Green Valley gardeners have been tilling the soil with one hand and reading eviction notices in the other for the last two years,” said Brenda Thompson-Duchene, of Isabahlia Ladies of Elegance Foundation, which operates the food production programs and market at Green Valley. “Our victory means we can turn our energy back to healthy foods that help Brooklyn residents thrive and continue to ensure our garden is an oasis for all our Brownsville neighbors and New York City residents.”

“We are celebrating!” exclaimed Council Member Inez Barron said, standing in the 85-degree greenhouse on a cold, bright winter day. “East New York and Brownsville have the highest incidents of diabetes in the whole city. Diet and nutrition are very important to controlling the disease. The farm is right here in our own backyard and we are so glad that it is staying. We are glad that our collective effort to struggle to maintain all of Green Valley Community Farm has brought us this victory.”

Community farms are among key community-stewarded spaces that give vitality to New York City. Through resident stewardship of public land, especially where acres of it have languished behind fences for decades, residents meet their needs for healthy food, green space, community and culture.


The Community Development Project at Urban Justice Center provides legal, participatory research and policy support to strengthen the work of grassroots and community-based groups in New York City to dismantle racial, economic and social oppression.

596 Acres champions resident stewardship of land to build just and equitable cities. In New York City , the organization builds tools to help neighbors see vacant lots as opportunities and create needed green spaces that become focal points for community organizing and civic engagement. 596 Acres created Living Lots NYC, an interactive tool about vacant land across New York City designed to support organizing and advocacy work.

Isabahlia Ladies of Elegance Foundation is based in Brownsville and provides fresh food, education and opportunities for intergenerational collaboration between Brownsville residents. In addition to the Green Valley Community Farm, Isabahlia runs the farmers’ markets at Powell Street Garden, 410 Livonia Ave.


Contact: Ben Roussel (212-225-2575 or
View at

Jan. 30, 2017, 6:21 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

From the Mayor's office directly:

“We are suspending plans at this site. The City has been in communications with Green Valley since 2015 about the extent to which they can continue to use the site as a garden, as there was a misunderstanding about the garden’s boundaries in the initial agreement. All things considered, the City has concluded it would be best to allow the garden to remain on the full site.”

Melissa Grace
Deputy Press Secretary
Mayor’s Press Office
o: 212-788-2969
c: 347-224-2309

Jan. 27, 2017, 6:14 p.m.
paula at 596 acres uploaded
We came very close to going to court Here is the letter our legal team at the Urban Justice Center Community Development Project sent to HPD this morning.
Jan. 27, 2017, 6 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

Breaking news: the mayor’s office called the council member just now and told her that they are NOT planning to dispose of the Green Valley site for housing. The Farm is saved!!

Jan. 4, 2017, 10:06 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

Not good news:

"HPD respects the historic and ongoing work that gardeners have done to create productive community gardens in neighborhoods throughout the City. In 2012, the City entered a license agreement with the Green Valley gardeners to use one of the lots for a garden, and that lot will continue as a garden in the Parks Department's jurisdiction. The other lots will be put to use as much-needed affordable housing. The challenges we face demand that we make thoughtful choices and find creative solutions to identify sites for affordable housing as well as green space. The City looks forward to working with the gardeners of Green Valley to creatively utilize the other 35,000 square feet of gardens -- including two that HPD transferred in 2015 -- they also manage in the area so that there are minimal disruptions to their garden activities during the relocation."

Dec. 27, 2016, 4:52 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

A great article, with photos:

Dec. 20, 2016, 3:59 p.m.
paula at 596 acres uploaded
Even more signed petitions
Dec. 20, 2016, 3:58 p.m.
paula at 596 acres uploaded
More signed petitions!
Dec. 20, 2016, 3:50 p.m.
paula at 596 acres uploaded
Letter sent to Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Been by Paula Segal We will be meeting with Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen on December 28 at 1pm.
Dec. 20, 2016, 3:45 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

"This whole farm was dedicated as park land in December 2015," says community gardens activist Paula Segal. "Park land is protected under New York State law under the public trust doctrine."
Green Valley Farm has been warned by HPD that it will be evicted at the end of January to make way for this deal. Supporters of the farm say they plan on fighting for their farm to remain open for the community.

Dec. 18, 2016, 10:52 a.m.
paula at 596 acres said

Gardeners plant themselves at Brownsville lot to protest construction plans that would dig their urban farm out

Saturday, December 17, 2016, 1:10 PM

A hardy group of urban farmers dug in deep Saturday as they fought to save a Brownsville community garden from going to seed next month.

Local residents, politicians and health food activists joined the protest at the Green Valley Community Farm — a Brooklyn staple for more than two decades, now facing a major January eviction.

“This is our Whole Foods,” said Paul Muhammed, co-chair of the Community Board 5 economics committee. “We took the land and built a farm. Affordable is a misnomer. It’s do-for-self. We did it.”

According to the two dozen protesters, the land was sold for $4 to a developer who plans to build up to 20 units of affordable housing.

“Whose farm? Our farm!” the demonstrators chanted. “Whose community? Our community!”

The farm is located across from five lots, with the city Housing Preservation and Development agency now poised to peddle four of the properties.

The community garden at 73 New Lots Ave in Brownsville provides fresh, organic vegetables to the community living in a “food desert.”

A statement from HPD said a 2012 agreement between the city and the farm had provided for use of just the single lot for the garden.

“The challenges we face demand that we make thoughtful choices and find creative solutions to identify sites for affordable housing as well as green space,” the statement read.

The city hopes to work with the local community to “creatively utilize” existing space in Brownsville for the garden going forward.

But farm director Brenda Duchense said new construction should not come at the expense of the neighborhood’s primary source of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and other vegetables.

“We do need affordable housing,” she said. “But we also need affordable food. This community, they call a food desert. If there is a food desert, and people are trying to help and grow food, why stop that?”

“This is our Whole Foods,” said Paul Muhammed, co-chair of the Community Board 5 economics committee.

The protesters gathered in a greenhouse — part of a farm spread that includes bee hives, fruit trees and an education center.

Duchense, 55, said the disadvantaged neighborhood where Mike Tyson grew up remains in dire need of the farm and its vegetables.

“We are getting second-hand food in this community,” she said. “The garden is our farm area. Our education area. The schools bring their students here.”

Brownsville resident Muhammed, 60, complained the development project ignored the wishes of the local community.

“The whole impetus with affordable housing has nothing to with people,” he said. “It’s profits. This is our home. We live here ... We learn how to eat to live here, not to live to eat.”

Dec. 12, 2016, 10:38 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

This is frustrating:

"We have funding for you to launch a [year-round] market this year, but I know you are having issues with HPD and your lot. Has there been any resolution? And if so, can we discuss continuing your market past December. We do have some funding to support this and I’d like to get this in place and in particular put this location on the Central Office’s radar for the Pharma to Farm program."

Many thanks,

Maggie Veatch, MPH | Director
Nutrition and Physical Activity
NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Brooklyn District Public Health Office (BKDPHO) |718-637-5211

Dec. 12, 2016, 10:35 p.m.
paula at 596 acres uploaded
Letter from HPD extending eviction date to end of January 2017
Dec. 10, 2016, 6:04 p.m.
paula at 596 acres uploaded
More signed petitions! We will bring these to the full Community Board meeting on December 20. See you there!
Dec. 9, 2016, 8:30 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

Click the link to see CBS's coverage of the struggle.

Brownsville Residents Fight To Save Community Farm: ‘We Are Not Going To Give It Up So Easily’

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There’s a battle brewing in the Brooklyn over whether a community garden should be chopped down.

Surrounded by auto body shops and warehouses, the greenhouse might be the last thing you’d expect to find on the Brownsville street corner, but it’s been a staple of the community for nearly 20 years, CBS2’s Cindy Hsu reported.

Inside, even in December, there is fresh produce like eggplants, squash and even honey from the bee hives in the back.

Now, members of the community are standing unified to save the garden from being closed by the city over the holiday season.

“They want to tear down this garden, and basically uproot it and move it to a different location. But there’s no other locations out here,” one woman said.

Gardeners at Green Valley Community Farm were told by the city to vacate 80 percent of the land by December 31 in order to make way for affordable housing units.

Council member Inez Barron said the notice came as a surprise since just last year the city designated the space a permanent park.

“Once a farm is transferred to parks, it’s protected. So we were all rejoicing, and happy, oh this is wonderful. Low and behold a few months ago, they were told, ‘oh no, we didn’t intend for you to have all five of the lots,” Barron said.

However, the city argued that the garden never had the rights to the whole property and that they will be able to stay on one small area that was preserved.

“That single lot is 20 by 80 feet,” community garden activist Paula Segal said.

Segal said that would take away most of the garden, including the green house.

Now, the garden that normally supports the community is getting support from that community as gardeners, local business owners, students and health food activists stand linked together to save their garden.

“This garden means a lot to the poor people of Brownsville and we are not going to give it up so easily,” one man said.

Community activists hope that city officials will see just how important the garden is to the community and have a change of heart so that space for both food and housing can be found.

CBS2 reached out to the city’s department of housing and preservation, but it declined to go on camera to answer questions about the story.

Dec. 9, 2016, 1:17 p.m.
paula at 596 acres uploaded
Signed Petitions Coming In from Across the City We will bring these to the full Community Board meeting on December 20. See you there!
Dec. 8, 2016, 5:45 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

I just checked in with the community board about a letter of support for the continued preservation of the community farm. The land use committee will be making a recommendation to the full board about whether or not to write the letter we requested at the meeting on December 20, 2016.

Nov. 29, 2016, 1:47 p.m.
Mara at 596 Acres uploaded
Letter of Support from United Community Centers and East New York Farms! An excerpt from the letter: "Green Valley Farm is a testament to the vision and commitment of community leaders like Brenda Duchene. In a neighborhood where the city has invested substantial resources into improving opportunities for recreation and healthy food access, it makes little sense to develop housing in the spaces that have been contributing to positive health outcomes at no cost to the city for many years. There are legitimately vacant and unused properties throughout Brownsville and East New York that would be better suited to development. We therefore urge you to keep your promise to preserve the entirety of the property as a NYC Parks GreenThumb Community Garden so that the Brownsville and East New York communities may continue to enjoy all of the benefits that come from this space."
Nov. 23, 2016, 12:21 p.m.
Mara at 596 Acres uploaded
Letter of Support from Green City Force
Nov. 23, 2016, 12:20 p.m.
Mara at 596 Acres uploaded
Letter of Support from Pitkin Avenue Business Improvement District
Nov. 20, 2016, 6:40 p.m.
paula at 596 acres uploaded
Petition you can use to collect signatures from folks all over NYC
Nov. 20, 2016, 6:39 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

We had a wonderful meeting today!
We planned to get hundreds of signatures from neighbors in the community district, from other New Yorkers, from our elected officials and organizations that support our community growing.

Nov. 17, 2016, 2:59 p.m.
paula at 596 acres uploaded
19 letters going in the mail today to the mayor in support of Green Valley
Nov. 16, 2016, 4:52 p.m.
Mara at 596 Acres uploaded
Petition you can use to collect signatures from neighbors in favor of permanently preserving ALL of Green Valley Community Garden + Farmer's Market It says: We support the permanent preservation of Green Valley Community Garden as a NYC Parks Department GreenThumb Garden. Located on Brooklyn block 3857, lots 1, 24, 25, 26 and 27 at 93 New Lots Ave since the days when Rudolph Giuliani was Mayor, Green Valley is a key Brownsville institution that provides fresh produce, science education, open space and recreation to our neighbors. As members of the Community District, we were very pleased that the Mayor’s Office announced that Green Valley would be permanently preserved in December 2015. We are disheartened to learn that only lot 1, a paltry 21.67' x 85.58’, has been transferred to NYC Parks. We urge you to transfer the remaining lots where the bulk of the farm and greenhouse are located.
Nov. 10, 2016, 9:45 a.m.
Mara at 596 Acres posted
596 Acres General Meeting will be HERE on Sunday, November 20 at 3pm!
596 Acres General Meeting will be HERE on Sunday, November 20 at 3pm! On Sunday, November 20 from 3pm to 6pm, join us in the greenhouse Green Valley Community Garden & Farmers Market (formerly Powell Street Block Association) at New Lots Ave at Sackman Street in Brownsville for the 596 Acres General Meeting! We will focus on the impact of the Mayor's Housing Plan on existing gardens and community land access. Our host Green Valley is in danger of disappearing. Just as neighbors have come up with plans for stewarding vacant public lots that the city let languish behind fences in their neighborhoods for decades, the city is poised to sell them for $1 each to developers who will build housing unaffordable to most current residents. Bring your land access puzzles, land tenure frustrations and land sovereignty success stories! We will discuss and organize. Facebook event here:
Oct. 31, 2016, 4:06 p.m.
paula at 596 acres posted
Oct. 31, 2016, 4:06 p.m.
paula at 596 acres posted
Oct. 31, 2016, 4:06 p.m.
paula at 596 acres posted
Oct. 31, 2016, 3:57 p.m.
paula posted
Oct. 31, 2016, 3:08 p.m.
paula at 596 acres uploaded
Letter of Support from HELP 1 for the preservation of the garden
Oct. 27, 2016, 4:11 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

One of the developers that is responding to the RFP for construction on the Green Valley Garden site will present to the Land Use, Planning and Zoning Committee of CB16 at their November 15 meeting.

Come listen and show your support: 444 Thomas S. Boyland Street - Room 103 at 7pm on November 15.

Oct. 23, 2016, 5:55 p.m.
Paula @ 596 Acres said

Want to support the preservation of this garden? Write a letter to the Mayor using this template:

Oct. 11, 2016, 1:31 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

The situation of this crucial community space at risk of disappearing was covered in City Limits:

The whole story is worth reading if you care about the fate of the neighborhood, but here is the key part:

Demolishing community garden for housing

For the past few months, Brenda Duchene, the lead farmer of the Green Valley Community Garden on New Lots Avenue, has not been thinking about the potential for new local restaurants or improved street lighting. She’s been mourning that most of the farm, which is about twenty-years-old, could be demolished for housing.

Last December, thanks to the advocacy of organizations like 596 Acres, the farm was included among 34 gardens transferred from a list of developable properties to the Parks Department for permanent protection. In April, however, Duchene learned that only one of the five lots that constitute the garden had been transferred to Parks—leaving most of it still on HPD’s list of developable sites. Duchene went to the July planning initiative meeting to voice her complaint, but HPD did not offer to transfer the rest of the parcels. The agency, which says it must make tough decisions to strike a balance between preserving gardens and finding space for affordable housing, still expects the gardeners to move plants from the unlicensed area into the single lot.

Duchene says that will require the farmers to demolish a greenhouse, no longer invite schools to visit in the winter, remove their beans, plum and cherry trees, and ditch their aspirations for a year-long farmers market.

“You have vacant lots and you’re saying you want to do gardens on some of these lots, but why would you destroy a garden that’s already in existence? It makes no sense,” says Duchene.

Creating further alarm for the staff at 596 Acres, the entire garden, along with eight other community gardens that have been officially transferred to the Parks Department, were marked as “vacant” on the map issued by HPD as part of the Brownsville planning process, according to the organization’s director Paula Segal. Following inquiries by Segal and City Limits, HPD corrected the map and apologized for the error.

April 5, 2016, 11:59 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

Green Valley Farm in East New York was one of the sites that was announced as being permanently preserved at a meeting hosted by the Mayor's office on December 30, 2015; it was announced that it would be transferred to NYC Parks. In a stunning twist after that announcement, the coordinators of Green Valley Community Farm learned last week that only a small portion of their site had actually been transferred. It seems that although the garden has been active on 5 tiny lots for nearly 20 years, HPD’s records only included one parcel as the “garden."

Last week, HPD told GreenThumb that they would like get a developer to build on the follow lots:

        • Brooklyn block 3857, lot 24 (103 NEW LOTS AVENUE).
• Brooklyn block 3857, lot 25 (101 NEW LOTS AVENUE).
• Brooklyn block 3857, lot 26 (99 NEW LOTS AVENUE).
• Brooklyn block 3857, lot 27 (95 NEW LOTS AVENUE).

Only Brooklyn block 3857, lot 1 was actually transferred to Parks. It is only 1,680 sq ft (21.67' x 85.58’). The clear intention of the transfer was to preserve the farm but it seems that a scrivner’s error resulted in only 1/5 being actually preserved.

March 29, 2016, 10:29 a.m.
paula at 596 acres said

Here is the City Limits story that describes the transfer:

Abdul Muhammad has seen developers looking at the New Harvest community garden next to his Bedford-Stuyvesant home for a long time, yet nothing ever happened. He kept on cleaning the lot and planting crops as the neighborhood changed around him. Residents that couldn't afford fresh produce could get it at the garden. All were welcome.

"We feed the community," he says.

Now, the large plot of city-owned land on Vernon Avenue between Marcy and Tompkins, which once served as a shortcut for drug users, is set to be turned into new residential buildings.

"This is prime real estate," he says. "As far as we're concerned it's a done deal."

The news came as part of a long-awaited announcement from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) about the fate of more than 40 community gardens on city-owned land across four boroughs. At least nine sites in Brooklyn and Manhattan will be offered up for the development of affordable housing, with exact locations yet to be worked out in some cases. Another 36 sites—the majority of which are in Central Brooklyn—will be transferred to the Department of Parks and Recreation and remain community gardens.

Gardeners learned the details in a hastily scheduled meeting at City Hall on the morning of Dec. 30. Many couldn't make it and some were notified just hours before. Still, the room was full and Brooklyn Deep was in attendance.

Officials offered little explanation for the timing and vowed to help each garden affected by the decision.

"I know this is going to be painful and I know this is going to be tough," said Michael DeLoach, a representative from the mayor's office. "This is not the end of the process, it's the beginning."

Many gardeners appreciated the chance to meet, but were still upset and made impassioned pleas for their sites to be spared.

"Do not take these two lots. Do not take them from a community from which everything has been taken," said Frances Mastrota from the Pleasant Village Community Garden in East Harlem.

City officials repeatedly stressed the need for new housing and promised to be more receptive to community needs than past mayoral administrations. HPD Commissioner Vicki Been said that because the city now receives more than 80,000 applications for every 100 units of affordable housing, they have no choice but to build more.

"We are critically aware of the importance of open space," she said. "We have tried very hard to save as many gardens as we possibly can."

Yet for the activists in the room, losing even one site is too many—especially in low-income communities where many of the affected gardens are located.

"When you destroy a community garden, you're destroying a community," said Ray Figueroa from the New York Community Garden Coalition.

While gardeners such as Abdul Muhammad were disappointed by the news, others had much cause for celebration.

Some gardens had been on HPD land for years without any issues, but others had been fighting for their survival after landing on a list of potential development sites in late 2014. Many on the list held demonstrations and community meetings to rally support. Ena McPherson from Tranquility Farm in Bedford-Stuyvesant even invited the city's parks commissioner to come for a tour.

With the exception of New Harvest, every garden on the list from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Weeksville and Brownsville was saved. This allows them to continue growing fresh produce, providing nutrition education, raising chickens, harvesting honey and processing many pounds of compost for years to come.

But Alice Forbes Spear from 462 Halsey Community Garden says this doesn't mean their fight is over.

"If any garden is threatened, if there's any threat, then we'll all fight back," she says.

Forbes Spear says that in addition to supporting other gardens, she'll be fighting the rapid pace of Brooklyn development in 2016 through community organizing.

"There's so much work to be done," she says. "We're going to keep on pushing back and keep on trying to create communities that are healthier, more affordable, reflective of the actual population of New York City and responsive to our citizenry."

Community garden advocacy has been strong in New York since the 1970s, when the city struggled with home foreclosures, vacant lots and rampant crime. In 1978, Operation Green Thumb was launched to make lots available for community members to revitalize their blocks with gardens.

Today, the GreenThumb program is part of the Department of Parks and Recreation and has more than 600 gardens. Not every garden in GreenThumb is on Parks land—some sites belong to other agencies or are part of land trusts—and none are officially permanent. Each garden is granted a license agreement of typically between one to four years that can be renewed. Still, these sites receive some material support, such as tools and soil, and have a more stable existence than if they were on HPD land.

Open space is set to play a large part in discussions about rezoning and affordable housing next year, particularly in East New York and Cypress Hills which are at the top of the city's list of areas set for major new development. Community leaders were pleasantly surprised to learn that three gardens in Cypress Hills made the list of sites being transferred to Parks. Though at least one has been slated for new development.

Shai Lauros, a director at the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, says that overall the administration's move last week was a positive sign for preserving green space amid new construction.

"I'm actually really encouraged by the city," she says. "It is public land and it is land that's effectively paid for by city residents, city taxpayers, and so it's important that the community be part of this work."

Many of the other gardens on HPD's development list are in East Harlem where the city is also pursuing major rezoning. The garden sites collectively make up less than two acres of land, but the de Blasio administration needs every parcel it can get to meet their ambitious affordable housing goals. The list of available HPD property is dwindling and now mainly comprises small abandoned lots that aren't economically viable to build on.

Paula Segal, executive director of 596 Acres, works to open up community access to unused city property. Her organization helped residents get permission to start 15 of the gardens that will be transferred to Parks. She thinks it's time for New York to overhaul a complicated system where different government agencies own vacant land without clear communication about what is happening on it. Not only would this help the city better understand what it owns, but it would also help future gardeners find new sites.

"We need major land reform in how the city handles its real estate inventory," says Segal. "HPD has been serving as a land bank with no oversight for half a century."

Segal will be advising gardens that are on the list of HPD development sites during what will likely be a long, complicated process. Past administrations have preemptively bulldozed gardens. Officials at the City Hall meeting promised not to do that.

GreenThumb plans to meet individually with each garden targeted for housing development to discuss relocation options. City officials said gardeners shouldn't invest any new resources in their sites, but it could be years until developers are ready to begin building in some cases.

Until then, Segal says gardeners should continue to enjoy their green spaces and look toward spring.

"Nothing is final until concrete is poured," she says.

Brooklyn Deep is a digital journalism platform chronicling neighborhood change in Central Brooklyn through investigative reporting and in-depth storytelling. Brooklyn Deep reporter Cole Rosengren is a freelance reporter in New York City. He can be followed @ColeRosengrenNY.

Dec. 29, 2015, 10:07 p.m.
paula at 596 acres said

Thanks to amazing organizing by gardeners and supporters, this community space was taken off the list of potential development sites and TRANSFERRED TO THE PARKS DEPARTMENT TODAY!

Jan. 24, 2015, 11:43 a.m.
Paula said

The name of the garden is Green Valley.

Jan. 16, 2015, 5:27 p.m.
Paula at 596 Acres said

This site was included in a list of sites that developers are being asked to apply to build housing on by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development. (see

The list was published on January 14, 2015 and developers' responses are due on February 20, 2015. The fact that this site was included DOES NOT necessarily mean that housing will be developed here, but it does me that HPD is encouraging housing development and is not likely to consider other uses for the time being. If no one applies for this site, it may again be available in March!

The list and RFQ are products of HPD, under the direction of the Mayor's office. Development is not certain - this is simply a request for developers to apply to become qualified to build in these sites.

This site has been slated for a rental housing program: 15-30 units of housing going to people making less than 165% of the Area Median Income (AMI); this means rents in these units could be more than $3,000. per month for a family of four.

This article sums things up pretty well (and has the voices of folks from across the 596 Acres network):

You can let your City Council member, the mayor's office and HPD know if you have feedback about the program or the selection of this site.

Aug. 5, 2012, 9:18 p.m.
Paula at 596 Acres said

& the Powell Street Block Association.

Aug. 5, 2012, 9:09 p.m.
Paula at 596 Acres said

Prior to 2002, this was a garden run by the United Missionary Baptist Church.

Aug. 5, 2012, 9:09 p.m.
Paula at 596 Acres said

Prior to 2002, this was a garden run by the United Missionary Baptist Church.

Aug. 5, 2012, 9:09 p.m.
Paula at 596 Acres said

Prior to 2002, this was a garden run by the United Missionary Baptist Church.

Aug. 5, 2012, 9:08 p.m.
Paula at 596 Acres said

Prior to 2002, this was a garden run by the United Missionary Baptist Church.

Aug. 5, 2012, 9:08 p.m.
Paula at 596 Acres said

Prior to 2002, this was a garden run by the United Missionary Baptist Church.

Aug. 2, 2012, 4:14 p.m.
Paula at 596 Acres said

Now with better Agency contact info! Make the call --