In recent years, vacant land in cities across the country has been colonized by community gardens, giving the often-poor residents access to fresh produce. Now, though, developers of affordable housing are targeting those same empty lots, putting them at odds with the gardeners in communities that need both housing and fresh food, reports FERN’s latest story, published with NPR’s The Salt.
Even after a garden has been established, writes Lea Ceasrine, “cities often still register such plots as ‘vacant,’ which allows them to be snatched up by housing developers.” In Brownsville, Brooklyn, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, there are “more than a dozen gardens and farms, the most of any Brooklyn neighborhood. They are an important source of fresh produce for community members. Just 40 percent of Brownsville residents live within walking distance of a supermarket.”
But Brownsville also needs housing, and a recent development plan would add 2,500 affordable units to the neighborhood.
In an effort to address the problem, the New York City Council in December passed the city’s first urban agriculture bill, which gives gardeners a say about what happens to community property.