On Sept. 13, the New York City Council took an important first step toward providing much-needed protection to the city’s community gardens. And while the new law is by no means complete, it will provide some peace of mind to those individuals involved with the protected gardens. For those gardens registered with the Department of Parks and Recreation, the legislation ensures that the city (which usually owns the land on which the gardens sit) will not sell the land to developers; thereby ensuring that neighborhoods that depend on their community gardens will continue to enjoy the bounty that those gardens produce.
Why are community gardens so important? Stephanie Mack, executive director of Harlem Seeds, Inc., an organization that fights childhood obesity though community gardening, states, “Community gardens teach children to respect their environment, which hopefully will lead to increased respect of others.”
For many urban neighborhoods, community gardens also become one of the few reliable sources of fresh fruits and vegetables, by decreasing barriers to fresh produce through lowering its cost and increasing access. Community gardens also contribute to the reduction of urban blight. Spaces that might otherwise remain empty lots instead allow individuals to connect with and appreciate the beauty of nature while vegetation reduces airborne toxins.
Community gardens also increase intergenerational interaction, as many of the gardens are cared for by seniors. Organizations like Harlem Seeds, Inc. bring children and seniors together to cultivate, harvest and enjoy the “fruit” of their labors. As Mack states, “Gardens create a dialogue between the seniors who use gardens to plant fruits and veggies and children who previously may never have set foot in a garden. The children learn from the seniors as they plant food that they will eventually eat. The gardens are a haven for people to connect with one another.”
These gardens are so vital to the well being of many New York City neighborhoods; we cannot afford to lose them. It is up to us, as New York City residents to work with our legislative bodies to ensure that New York’s community gardens are here for many years to come.
For more information about Harlem Seeds, Inc. contact Stephanie Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org.