The Five Star Garden

250-252, West 121st Street

The Five Star Garden

Community Garden


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A Community Garden is a piece of land gardened by a group of people. [1] Community gardens provide access to fresh produce and plants as well as access to satisfying labor, neighborhood improvement, sense of community and connection to the environment. [2] They are publicly functioning in terms of ownership, access and management, [3] as well as typically owned in trust by local governments or nonprofits.

Taken from the Article from : Magazine registered trademark

In Land We Trust

by Mary Jasch

The Trust for Public Land bought 63 community gardens in Manhattan in 1999, just one day before Mayor Guilliani was to auction them off for development. To the relief of green space-deprived New Yorkers, this national, non-profit, open space-saver stepped right up with the cash.

They (TPL) bought with plans to create an urban park system and to enrich neighborhoods, starting with the preservation of these gardens. Many are in under-served areas where no parks exist.

"New Yorkers suffer from an acute lack of open space," says Susan Clark, TPL's public affairs director. "The national expectation is 2.5 acres per thousand residents. There are some communities with less than half an acre for every thousand people."

Community gardens serve as neighborhood parks, playgrounds and places to grow things. "Many neighborhoods where we own gardens are predominantly low-income neighborhoods of color. The gardens are places to bring families and children, and where neighbors get together to socialize," says Paul Coppa, director of TPL's Garden Land Trust Program.

One garden saved by TPL is the Five-Star Garden on W. 121st Street in Harlem, managed by Classie Parker. She, with nine other adults and children, founded the garden in 1990.

"I had the idea when my mother was diabetic and sick and Dad was due to retire. I figured while I was taking care of Mom, if Dad did retire he'd have some place to go where he wasn't run over by a bicycle or confronted with drugs," she says.

The ten gardeners rented the lot from the city for $1.00 a year. "We started two gardens, one on the right side of the street and one on the left. In '99, the city took the one on the right and there are $450,000 townhouses there. They started selling lots off. They took four gardens here in my area. I had the other garden before the bulldozers. I had a ten-year lease. I lost one and kept one."

That was a year of turmoil and loss - 113 community gardens, or "vacant lots" as the city called them, were put on the block and bought by both TPL and the New York Restoration Project.

A lawsuit brought against the city by the attorney general resulted in a settlement that allowed development of certain gardens and protection of others following a new review process.

The 1,400 square foot organic Five Star Garden is multi-cultural and intergenerational, plus inspirational, recreational and therapeutic. "People just want to come and talk and do every little thing," says Parker. "Once you open the garden, you don't have to do anything - they just come and talk."

Soon the Five Star will have a new owner - the Manhattan Land Trust, one of three Urban Land Trusts created by TPL to take ownership of the gardens by early 2004. The other two are in the Bronx and Brooklyn/Queens.


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