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Coney Island Community Garden Bulldozed in the Dead of Night

Coney Island Community Garden Bulldozed in the Dead of Night

Another community garden bites the dust at the hand of wealthy developers. The latest victim is the Boardwalk Garden, a local staple that had survived for 16 years with love and maintenance from the residents of Coney Island. Members of the garden were helpless to protect the land since it was destroyed without warning in the dark of night.

The 70,000 square-foot Boardwalk Garden at West 22nd Street featured 40 plots full of plants and vegetables. The nearly two dozen chickens that lived in the garden were corralled into pet carriers and abandoned outside of the property. The feral cats that took up residence in the garden were even worse off — left to their own devices to survive the bulldozing.

In the garden’s place, developers intend to construct a $53 million, 5,000 seat amphitheater. Residents of the area have long been opposed to the concert venue in general. However, even after the community board voted not to approve the construction, moneyed interests got involved and convinced the city council to give them the go ahead, despite continued objections from residents.

Elena Voitsenko, one of the garden’s members, compared the covert nighttime operation to the communist maneuvers she emigrated from Russia to escape. “They destroyed life!” Voitsenko told the New York Post while crying. She has taken responsibility for the displaced chickens until a new home can be found for them.

Fellow volunteer Yury Openzik also expressed anger. “I’m heartbroken not only for myself, but for the elderly people that were gardening here every day,” he said.

The developers, meanwhile, maintain that they are in the clear for bulldozing the garden without warning. They claim that the garden was officially “decommissioned” in 2004 and has been “operating illegally” for the past decade. For those keeping score at home: using abandoned space to do something positive for the community is illegal, but sneakily ruining the hard work and food supply of well-meaning citizens is perfectly acceptable.

Many in Coney Island contend that the developers only ambiguously have the law on their side at best. According to a press release by the New York City Community Gardens Coalition, the space had been deemed a public “parkland,” thereby guaranteeing it certain legal safeguards from real estate development. Rather than following their own existing environmental regulations, however, the City ignored and altered these procedures to push approval of the amphitheater through more easily.

The NYCCGC also alleges that the developers had offered to find gardeners an alternative site so residents could transplant their crops. Before this plan could be negotiated, however, the developers just razed the site while no one was watching. Apparently, it seemed easier to bulldoze everything than to try to save the vegetation.

With moves like this one, New York City may lose its title as one of the best cities for community gardening. What does it say about a city that has such little regard for 16 years of its residents’ joy and effort? What does it say about a city that is willing to hand over the amount of public space available to commercial entities?

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Photo Credit: Jack Thurston

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205 comments

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5:00PM PST on Feb 4, 2014

Awful.

5:54AM PST on Jan 30, 2014

I cry for NY. I think the people should boycott the amphitheater let it go to ruin then plant on the rubble again..... K i know it would take many decades.... but its just so unfair for the city to take away something that is benefiting the community. I thought that we are supposed to have projects in the community that help some of the underprivileged make ends meet.

11:14PM PST on Jan 9, 2014

disgusting

8:11PM PST on Jan 9, 2014

A garden that benefits the community, providing jobs, and pesticide free organic vegetables, is worth less, than an ugly $53 million, 5,000 seat amphitheater, that will benefit only the wealthy owner. These greedy developers, who only care about money, are an example of the avarice, and selfishness of the rich and powerful, who own America.

9:36AM PST on Jan 9, 2014

Well...what the residents should do is come in the dead of night and destroy any new construction of this oh so precious amphetheatre and see how the owners/investors like that. Tit for tat. The American people really just need to start squatting on whatever land they can find...and stay there. Banksters do it all the time. Who owns the Earth? No one. Property is a concept...not a fact. Property is not a Universal Truth...it is not a World Truth either...it is only a personal truth...and we all know that personal truths only belong to the person holding that truth within themselves. What my mother or father or my brothers or sisters or my friends or my neighbors or the Joe Schmoe across town believe in, only belongs to them and them alone. What is true to you may very well not be true to me. Who says that land belongs to any developers? Who says? They hold a deed or a title? Yeah? Where'd they get that deed or title? Some Bankster? And where did that Bankster get the deed or title? Oh...yeah...sorry, I forgot...the Bankster got that deed or title from some indigenous person who used to live, hunt, forage and tread lightly on that land for thousands and thousands of years prior to some rich, greedy white European or descendant thereof who murdered most of the indigenous people so that they could write fraudulent documents stating that that land which belongs to all of us as a collective, could be fenced in, taxed and bought and sold for a PROFIT. Squat my fellow humans...SQUAT

7:23AM PST on Jan 7, 2014

MONEY RULES ... when you can't get it done out in the open for all to see, do it under cover of darkness, much like the weekend, behind closed door deals of others who stop at nothing to get their way. Nothing new, just more of the same

Spread the names of those who approved this deal and, when it comes time to reelect them, DON'T -- replace them.

5:51AM PST on Jan 7, 2014

thanks

8:00AM PST on Jan 6, 2014

So shocking.

3:30AM PST on Jan 6, 2014

well said, Jayme

3:29AM PST on Jan 6, 2014

shocking

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