Sometimes you win some, and sometimes…you win some

So out of nowhere, we got this award letter from Edie Stone the head of Green Thumb.  The letter is posted below in it’s entirety.  Morning Glory HAS A NEW HOME!!!

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Thank you for your interest in the Gardens for Healthy Communities Project. Our panel of judges has reviewed all of the applications and made selections for the management group or groups for each of the garden sites available. We received an overwhelming number of applications for some sites and were unable to award every applicant with a site to manage. If your group applied for more than one site, where possible we have awarded one of the sites to your group.

The applications were reviewed by a panel of community gardening and greening experts including staff from GreenThumb, Community Assistance Unit, Citizens Committee for NYC, GrowNYC, Just Food, and The New York City Community Garden Coalition.  Based on an agreed upon selection criteria, we have chosen groups to take the lead in operating 14 new community managed urban agriculture sites. These sites will be licensed by the Parks Department for four year terms via the GreenThumb program. All the standard rules of operation for GreenThumb gardens regarding public access, open hours and membership will apply (for details see our website greenthumbnyc.org).

Wherever possible, groups applying for the same sites were awarded joint management for the site. GreenThumb believes in collaboration, and that the more community members involved, the better chance a site has for long term success. Meetings will be held in the next few weeks to introduce new groups and begin site design discussions. If your group was not chosen to manage a site, we strongly encourage you to join the new garden at the location you are interested in anyway. There will certainly be enough work for everyone to have ample opportunity to participate.

The  sites are awarded to the following groups:

Site location                                                                                                      Group Name or Names 

Westchester Avenue at St. Ann’s, BX                                                            Eagle Slope Farms/Luke McGeehan and

Spanish Mott Haven Seventh Day Adventist Church/Samuel Lopez and Jose Ortega

Hoe Avenue bet Freeman and Home, BX                                                     Morning Glory/ Aazam Otero and Urban Rebuilding Initiative/Sarah Auerbach

757 Melrose Ave, BX                                                                                      Garden of Life and Health/Michelle Correa

1001 Bedford Ave, BK                                                                                    Land of Pan/ Yonnette Fleming and Resurrection Clinton Hill/Scott Calgaro

340 Tompkins Ave, BK                                                                                    Feeding Tree/Ena McPherson and Meroevians Community Garden/Crystal Adjani

199 York Street, BK                                                                                         Vinegar Hill Neighborhood Assoc./Amber Daniels

347 Keap Street, BK                                                                                        Brooklyn Arbor/Brooke Singer and South Fourth Community Garden/Tanyth Berkeley

81st Street between 24th and 25th Avenues, Q                                                Brooklyn Queens Land Trust/ Regina Andrea Bernard-Carenno

82nd between Astoria Blvd and 23rd Avenue, Q                                              The Growing Sprouts/Eric Matthews

Beach Channel Drive  at Beach 45th Street, Q                                               Edgemere Organic Farm/ Matt Sheehan and Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger/Trevor and Yvonne Rankine

Beach 63rd Street at Thursby Ave,Q                                                               Shore Soup Project/Robyn Hillman-Herrigan

Highbridge Park, M                                                                                         Treat Me Right Gardens/Fatima Y. Prioleau and Earth Ninja/Kaila Brachter

Henderson Avenue and Chappell Street, SI                                                  Staten Island Deliverance Temple, Inc./Rev. Russell Morrison

Ready, Set, Unhealthy Community Competition-GO!

So on May 13th, just a couple days before the May 16th deadline, we were alerted by Councilwoman Arroyo’s office that Green Thumb/Parks Dept. was holding an open competition for acquiring several vacant Parks properties for community gardens as part of the mayor’s Gardens for Healthy Communities Initiative.

As Bloomberg parachutes out office he has been making waves on the health and environment fronts in order to add to his legacy and detract from the unsightly tid-bits, like NYC’s most dire housing crisis in 40 years, his failed public schools policy and (of course) stop and frisk.

So Green Thumb has been given a green light to host a competition to an open field of community groups looking for garden space.

We have submitted our application to the disconcertingly anonymous panel in hopes of winning a space.  The competition guidelines and our application are posted below.  Take a look.

GT OTF Application (FINAL FINAL)

Morning Glory – GHC application -final

Back to Basics

After a solid five months of hijinks we’ve decided to end our relationship with the Councilwoman altogether.  We provided them with a letter (posted below) making the terms of anything moving forward very clear.

We’re not waiting for them to meet us where we are at and don’t see any interventions from them being successful, so we are recommitting to a community organizing strategy to rally support around a new space in a new neighborhood.  we are starting from scratch and plan on building a presence that will demand a new space.

As promised, our letter to the Councilwoman:

May 9, 2013

Dear Councilmember Maria del Carmen Arroyo,

While we appreciate your efforts to mediate the largely one-sided conflict between Morning Glory Community Garden and Housing Prevention Department (HPD), we feel that the work of the past two years has been largely unproductive and are no longer interested in working together, unless the agreements we originally established in our meetings can be met.

Morning Glory Garden was a green space that provided a large quantity of healthy food for a community where diabetes and obesity rates are out of control.  Since it’s destruction we have missed two planting seasons and are not any closer to having a community garden again.

Originally HPD promised a portfolio of various locations for a potential garden space. Instead we received an unfair and disrespectful offer; a single option that did not meet any of our requests.  It increasingly does not look like we will receive equal compensation nor reparations for the two plus years of work and the community garden that was destroyed by HPD with the active collaboration of Community Board #1 and the Bronx Borough’s President’s Office.  Unless HPD intends to give us a fair offer closer to what was initially promised by Comissioner Wambua we are not interested in taking part in more meetings.

As we originally requested in December, we would like to contact Department of Citywide Administrative Services directly about the space that we were told time and time again was owned by HPD.  As our elected representative, we are asking that you put us in contact with a reliable representative from DCAS.  Please contact us with this information as we wish to represent ourselves in discussing the space with DCAS.

Until we see concrete steps towards addressing the aforementioned issues, we respectfully decline to continue working with your office, and are choosing to refocus on our community-building efforts.  Once again we are left with one less resource in our community because of the HPD and the Mayor’s greedy warehousing of public land for the already very wealthy and politically connected.

Sincerely,

Members of Morning Glory Community Garden

Bait & Switch month (a.k.a. April)

HPD requested to schedule site visits with us via Arroyo’s office at the beginning of the month.  Which sites and where were still left unclear.

After some scheduling back and forth and some prodding via email we learned there was only one site to be viewed and that it was our only option.  That site, 667 Cauldwell Ave., although near our other requested sites, met none of the requests we made for a space and is only 1/8th the size of the old Morning Glory site, and less than a third of any of the sites we had actively been seeking to obtain.

We refused to participate in the site visit if that was our only option.  Instead, we asked that our other requests be honored and that the original commitments made back in February by HPD to provide us with a portfolio and maps to select and negotiate a site be honored.

That refusal was met with several calls from the Councilwoman’s office, including a call from the Councilwoman herself, in which she made a dubious proposition.

She proposed that we accept the site because she had another site in mind for us that was not yet available, but that she was working on it for us.  So that in approximately a year we would be able to move into the still unnamed “ideal location. “

We obviously said no.

Flip. Flop.

After twisting in the wind for a week post-meltdown melodrama madness meeting, we got a call from the Councilwoman’s office and spoke with her office on March 27th.

They stated that the Councilwoman is committed to continuing to work with Morning Glory and that she also spoke to HPD intergovernmental affairs and got a commitment from them to provide an interim space.

We shall see.

Space-Ball

“I need some space.”

That was the reprise of a tearful, emotional and angry Councilwoman Arroyo, who stated her level of disappointment with us was so “overwhelming “ that she needed “space”

Yes, “space.”  Like in a relationship.  A shitty one, you know the kind.

Apparently we were not giving her enough “space” by referencing multiple news sources including the Village Voice, NY Daily News and NY Post all of which show that she (and her mother, state Assemblywoman Carmen E. Arroyo.) have had a direct legal relationship with Stanley Schlein at different points in the past.

Although we don’t even link to the stories, and only acknowledge their existence via a relatively passive one-sentence nod to the fact ay relationship would cause a conflict of interest as a component of the ULURP process, it was too much to bear.

The Councilwoman, through occasional long pauses punctuated by a few tearful bursts, stated that the relationship was “not factual.”  She stated, that we should have called her to ask her opinion before posting anything, and that those reporters were “irresponsible” and practicing “irresponsible journalism.” Yup, all of them.

Arroyo argued that our assessment of conflicts of interest were off the mark because although Schlein worked for her “eight years ago,” your relationships with people do not continue to tie you to an individual moving forward in the sense that Conflicts of Interest are defined in the city charter.  Even if that individual provided you with critical legal counsel, was/is a disgraced former city employee and is involved in a land deal you have a level of discretion in.

Despite our attempts to contextualize the fact that we don’t think she is the enemy, and that there were many of other conflicts of interest present at different levels of government, she still needed “space.”

At the bizarre end of the melodrama we were left with 2 things:

  1. The ultimatum from Bronx HPD that if anything is to happen we must remove the all of our references to them and their conflicts of interest, and possibly this whole blog.
  2. The infinite and indefinite boundaries of “space” in our non-relationship to the Councilwoman.

Way Too Good to be True

As of February 25th we had received nothing that was originally promised to us from HPD via the Commissioner of the agency- Matthew Wambua.  We had been expecting a portfolio of sties since the middle of the month.

On March 2nd, while attending a panel on Community Organizing in the South Bronx at the Bronx Documentary Center, we ran into Councilwoman Arroyo who was in attendance/sort of participating as well.

When we asked her what the month-long hold up with the portfolio was we were told:

1. HPD was giving her alot of “lip service” and had not done the portfolio as promised

2. She was also told by someone at Bronx HPD that our website contained “nasty and insulting things” about her and HPD, and that she was “very disappointed that this is where we are at after all that has been done,” and that she wants to discuss this stuff in person.

Whoa.  Now obviously, she didn’t read anything on this blog and just took HPD’s word for it.  At the time she mentioned this our blog hadn’t been updated for 2013 and her name literally only appears once.   We mentioned her specifically in our visual guide to the web of connections and conflicts with Stanley Schlein. Our one sentence nod to the councilwoman states that she had a conflict of interest, as Schlein has served as a lawyer to her in the past.

All of which is, of course, NOT untrue.

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