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May 3, 2010 / Brooklyn news / Greenpoint / Meadows of Shame

Park official on ‘Gate-gate’: We violated garden to save it!

The Brooklyn Paper

A Parks Department official revealed this week that the agency’s removal of a fence around a privately cultivated garden inside McCarren Park last week was the latest salvo in a war to reclaim the land for the public.

One day after parks workers uprooted a gate surrounding Nick’s Garden, a small garden near Lorimer and Bayard streets, North Brooklyn Parks administrator Stephanie Thayer accused gardeners Walid Mokh and Gina Risica of fencing off an area that is public space and promised additional changes.

“Working in parks, I am well aware of the challenges in caretaking within public space, but privatizing public space is not the answer to the challenge,” Thayer wrote in an e-mail to other parks volunteers that was later forwarded to the pair. “The garden area should be accessible for all park goers to see the beauty that’s been created, and for all to enjoy.”

On April 24, the fence was breached to allow a Boy Scout troop to plant several flowering trees in honor of its centennial. After the gardeners protested, the Scouts retreated, and Mokh hastily restored the garden’s fence.

Mokh and Risica argue that the fence was torn down, not opened for more access, and that the Parks Department’s disruptions could harm flowers in the garden. Both gardeners assert that they are constantly present in the garden and available to any community member who wants to learn more about horticulture.

“We’ve had a really good relationship with the Parks Department,” said Risica. “We’re in the park, we’ve been there forever, and it’s never been put to question that it shouldn’t be a community garden.”

Thayer says that she left several messages with the garden’s caretakers after a tense meeting two weeks ago, when Thayer explained that the Boy Scouts would be planting in the park on April 24. But Mokh asserts that Thayer did not tell him that the plantings would occur inside Nick’s Garden and that the fence would be removed for this to happen.

The garden was once registered under the city’s Green Thumb program as a community garden, but its permit expired in 2007. It may have been an oversight by the gardeners — but, then again, being in the Green Thumb program requires gardens to have some community involvement, said Parks spokesman Phil Abramson.

“There must be opportunity for the public to become involved if they wish to be a community garden,” said Abramson. “They are allowed to garden, but there must be public access to it. That was the goal over the weekend.”

Mokh rejected Abramson’s suggestion that he’s running a private park with a park.

“This garden is a community garden, not a private garden,” he said. “We do all our work in the garden for the community to enjoy — and this is what we get?”

Updated 12:24 am, May 4, 2010: Updated to clear up how the gardeners got the Thayer e-mail.
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Jessica from Williamsburg says:
This is just totally unfair - Gina and Walid use this garden to throw awesome barbeque parties that really pull our community together.
If the city wants to turn this into some kind of dog run or skate park, i say - well I have nothing to say to that.
May 3, 2010, 10:08 am
ms nomer from greenpoint says:
I'm wondering what caused the Boy Scouts to "retreat" - hope it wasn't the gardeners making things unpleasant or scary for them, which is inexcusable under any circumstance.
May 3, 2010, 10:14 am
will from williamsburg says:
When you compare this garden to the Dome Garden which is also in McCarren, you can see how this garden fails in it's being open to the public. The Dome garden has a plaque, a donations bin, is open a lot, and obviously a volunteer-run public garden.

This garden has always seemed totally random to me - no explanation, a mystery except to those "in the know"

I'm not associated with either of these gardens but the differences are striking.
May 3, 2010, 1:19 pm
hey neighbor from 11211 says:
It is a community garden. It has been for 15 years. Don't wait for an engraved invitation to participate. No, it is no Green Dome Garden (which isn't open all the time either, yet relatively equal in hours). Should Red Gate not exist because it isn't as fancy? How about getting involved ?

http://awalkintheparknyc.blogspot.com/2010/05/nicks-garden-violation.html
May 3, 2010, 1:43 pm
brooklynwoman from burg says:
ummmm BBQing is NOT ALLOWED at mccarren and there are no community hours... way to set an example walid and gina
May 3, 2010, 1:52 pm
Gina from Willamsburg says:
Not in Nccarren park maybe, but bbq-ing is totally allowed in mine and walid's garden.
You are no longer invited in brooklynwoman - or man!
May 3, 2010, 2:30 pm
Gina3 from Williamsburg says:
There has never been, nor will there ever be a BBQ in Red Gate Garden. Those take place in the rest of McCarren Park where parks dept doesn't care to enforce their own rules. If you ever came by you would know that, instead of posting false or inflammatory comments.
May 3, 2010, 2:36 pm
Gina from Willamsburg says:
That is so right, stop causeing trouble - we're not having bbqs and we never had them!
May 3, 2010, 3:18 pm
Moshe Aron Kestenbaum from Williamsburg ODA says:
'This Land Is Your Land. The do no good parks commisioner is silly. Whats wrong if a private citizen tills the land to grow some organic food? The parks commisioner is not doing a dam anyways regarding the park, The pool is closed for years already, So why and whats the problem with this tiny strip?
May 3, 2010, 6:32 pm
kay from brooklyn says:
it's a public park and shouldn't be fenced off to anyone. i support the park's actions.
May 3, 2010, 11:20 pm
Lily from greenpoint says:
It is a public park, it should not be fenced off to anyone. I support opening it up too!
May 4, 2010, 9:32 am
Meredith from 11211 says:
Come and be a part of the community garden. It's open to anyone that wants to get involved, and has been for 15 years.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mouseybrowns/sets/72157623923607650/
May 4, 2010, 9:59 am
Goyo from lOS sURES says:
It's PUBLIC it should not be fenced off!
May 4, 2010, 12:48 pm
Charles from PS says:
Public space is not private space open to the public, regardless of good intentions. This would lead to more people demanding their own piece of the park. Time to call in the bull dozers and kill the dream.
May 4, 2010, 12:56 pm
Hopper from Los Sures says:
Show a valid permit. It's not 1985 anymore. Unfortunately.
I can't even walk around with a beer; why should these gardeners be exceptional?
May 4, 2010, 2:57 pm
Z from Greenpoint says:
It's unbelievable to me that a small fence to make sure that a beautiful garden doesn't get trampled and pissed on (yes, witnessed personally) by the hordes of non-rule abiding barbecuers that take over the park on the weekend is causing such a rukus. The blatant lying being done by the parks department is mind boggling as well. This is not locked up like the community gardens in the area that are not allowed access by the people in the neighborhood. If people were respectful of the grass plants and surroundings and didn't come through like locusts destroying everything in their wake, the community that volunteers there wouldn't even HAVE a fence. Central Park has areas fenced off with the same short red pickets, and no one says anything about that. I was there the day the fence went back up. Thayer wanted all of the plants, trees and shrubbery uprooted destroyed and removed. There was nothing about nurturing nature. No scouts were harmed in the altercation or even bore direct witness.
Maybe if Thayer wasn't busy pursuing a personal vendetta against the group, (you know because GASP! they asked a parks department employee to DO THEIR JOB!) and listened to the concerns and worked with them this wouldn't be an issue, but as history shows some people go a little power trip when given even the slightest supervisory position.
Maybe she should be acting more for the community and do something about our weekend warriors who have a penchant for leaving our park a mess with all the beer bottles, overflowing garbage cans, filthy bathrooms, and oh yeah ILLEGAL BARBECUE REFUSE etc.
May 4, 2010, 4:45 pm
Z from Greenpoint says:
Oh and speaking of the open container law, and illegal BBQs in the park why doesn't the local precinct go and fill their ticket quotas on the weekend? This past Saturday 10 cops could have issued 30 tickets apiece and not have made a dent.

How bout the public littering? The balls of used diapers left around like soggy soccer balls throughout the park? No? Because smelling crappy diapers baking in the sun is something the public is just CLAMORING for right?
May 4, 2010, 5:01 pm
Eddie from Bklyn says:
Z from Greenpoint says: "It's unbelievable to me that a small fence to make sure that a beautiful garden doesn't get trampled and pissed on (yes, witnessed personally) by the hordes of non-rule abiding barbecuers that take over the park on the weekend is causing such a rukus."
Z, the garden is in a PUBLIC PARK and its community-garden permit expired ... so they're using public property as if it were their own and then "protecting" it from the public. NONE of us can do that, whether to garden, create a bird sanctuary, build a dog run, or reseed the grass at whim.

Z said: "Central Park has areas fenced off with the same short red pickets, and no one says anything about that."
The *park* put up those fences. Do you really believe that we can fence off our own personal chunks of NYC parks as long as we use the right pickets?

Z said: "Maybe if Thayer wasn't busy pursuing a personal vendetta against the group ... and listened to the concerns and worked with them this wouldn't be an issue"
You're presuming that the group should get TLC because it owns or has some right to the property. It doesn't. The "vendetta" = reclaiming part of a NYC park.
If your attitude reflects that of the group (and I hope it doesn't), I can see why there's a problem.
May 5, 2010, 2:10 am
Z from Greenpoint says:
Eddie,

The park initially before the permit lapse, (which it should not have, GIVEN.), put up or gave approval for the fence.

By ALL means I'm not saying special treatment but acting like there is access to all the other community spaces is ridiculous.

Reissue the permit. It is a beautiful space for ALL to enjoy. Putting a fence up is to designate it as a special area that needs care, it's not an 8' iron fence that gets locked up.

Destroying the landscape and blatantly lying in an article about all the other open community gardens in the area * is* Thayer pursuing a vendetta using her position in the Parks Department. Feel better.

And by all means let's argue semantics, because THAT always helps resolve a situation easily remedied.
May 5, 2010, 10:50 am
Eddie from Bklyn says:
Z from Greenpoint says: "The park initially before the permit lapse, (which it should not have, GIVEN.), put up or gave approval for the fence."
-- That lapse is a significant factor, Z. It's irresponsible, looks iffy, and undercuts every argument they have.

"Reissue the permit. It is a beautiful space for ALL to enjoy. Putting a fence up is to designate it as a special area that needs care, it's not an 8' iron fence that gets locked up."
-- It has to be publicly open-enjoyed-accessible in more than name only, and it doesn't matter how big the fence is. A fence implies "stay out," and you don't fence off property that isn't yours unless you have permission from the owner.

"And by all means let's argue semantics, because THAT always helps resolve a situation easily remedied."
-- This isn't about semantics. It's about their license to use the space, and whether the space is truly public -- or whether they're effectively using it for personal interests, guarding it as if it were their own property, and trying to trump the (public) park's intentions. Period.

You definitely won't remedy this via free-form emoting, conspiracy theorizing, making snarky personal accusations, or presuming that feelings and intent are "facts" -- as you've done in your posts here.
May 6, 2010, 1:10 pm
FakeGina from Greenpoint says:
Eddie said...
-- That lapse is a significant factor, Z. It's irresponsible, looks iffy, and undercuts every argument they have.

That sounds like something a defense attorney or failed politician might say. Just last week my gynecologist informed me that since I had missed three mammograms in a row, they were going to give me a mastectomy as punishment. My irresponsibility made me iffy.

~~A fence implies "stay out," and you don't fence off property that isn't yours unless you have permission from the owner.

The owner is the public taxpaying citizen. Have you ever seen a community garden in NYC. Name ONE that doesn't have a fence, a gate, and a lock. Just try, and get back to us.
May 6, 2010, 11:33 pm
Z from Greenpoint says:
Thanks FakeGina
I didn't realize that small patch of grass is Where Kennedy's second gunman was hiding!

BY ALL MEANS tear it down and destroy it.
May 7, 2010, 7:21 am
Eddie from Bklyn says:
FakeGina from Greenpoint says: "That sounds like something a defense attorney or failed politician might say."
Sheesh, it's just common sense. If you were disorganized enough to let the permit lapse, (a) you have a legal problem, and (b) it imples that you're careless or view yourself as a special case. Both of those *do* undercut you.

FakeGina says: "The owner is the public taxpaying citizen. Have you ever seen a community garden in NYC. Name ONE that doesn't have a fence, a gate, and a lock."
But those gardens have permits -- issued on behalf of NYC taxpayers -- so can erect fences w/the city's OK; and they don't face claims that they've privatized public space, via behavior and lack of permit.
May 9, 2010, 3:04 pm
Frank from 11222 says:
Sounds like these rogue gardeners could use some legal advice. This is comparable to forgetting to renew a vehicle's registration, and then causing a fatal accident while carelessly driving around without registration. Well, everything except the causing an accident part. Get a lawyer gardeners.
http://no-ny-dwi.com/
May 12, 2010, 9:47 am

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