NO GARDEN PARTY FOR DEVELOPERS

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In a court case that may be the saving grace for the city’s 400 community gardens, a year-old citywide network of gardeners and greens has won a temporary stay against the bulldozing of four Lower East Side Gardens.

The city’s housing department, along with the New York City Partnership, had planned to build a 98-unit condo that would have resulted in the destruction of four gardens.

To stall the bulldozers, the New York City Coalition for the Preservation of Gardens dragged the city and the partnership into state Supreme Court.

Last Monday, Judge Jeffrey Atlas issued an injunction against the demolition. The stay will remain in place until the judge makes his final decision in a hearing that is expected to begin Wednesday.

The case has major consequences for the city’s 12-year-old New Homes Program. Currently, half of the city’s community gardens are threatened by city-backed construction projects. To speed up development, the city has granted itself an exemption from its own complicated and time-consuming Land Use and Review Procedure (ULURP)–which requires community input.

If the coalition wins, they will have to submit every new plan to ULURP–which garden-lovers hope will delay the construction or force the city to select alternative sites.

The coalition is also arguing that the city is flouting environmental review procedures by fast-tracking its park-killing plan. When pieced together the 400 threatened gardens represent over 60 acres of park land–a space larger than the sprawling Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. “Obviously this is a massive attempt to bypass public scrutiny,” says Legal Aid attorney David Weschler, who is representing the coalition. “You can’t segment the environmental impact by looking at each project (around the city) one at a time.”

HPD officials refused comment on the matter.