NYC community gardens threatened by commercial development

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Bill Radke: Not only has New York City become safer in the last decade, it's also become a lot greener thanks to the proliferation of community gardens. But those oases of green could be threatened if new rules go into effect next month. Reporter Jill Barshay has that story.


Urban gardeners: What do we want? More gardens! When do we want them? Now!

Jill Barshay: That's the sound of urban gardeners protesting at City Hall. In recent weeks, they've been wearing revolutionary hats and shouting that the bulldozers are coming. Gardeners are upset by proposed rules that could allow commercial development of city-owned community gardens. That's banned right now.

JK Canepa's been tending a garden in the East Village for 10 years. She's concerned that rich developers could take away her urban wetland, honeysuckle flowers and fennel plants.

JK Canepa: They can go to the community board and present their case, and I'm afraid present their money. And even the most revered and treasured gardens could go.

This is not your usual clash between tree huggers and businessmen. On the other side are advocates for affordable housing.

Josh Lockwood is the executive director of Habitat for Humanity New York City. He says no one wants to destroy a garden, but the city also needs more apartments for low-income New Yorkers.

Josh Lockwood: A key constraint in New York is the availability of the land. And so for affordable housing developers like us, that often means, you know, difficult conversations about how to build and where to build.

The city is slated to hold a public comment session on the new rules today.

In New York, I'm Jill Barshay for Marketplace.

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