Digging for Land

March 11, 2010 at 3:16 am Leave a comment

Food production is not likely to be a top priority for urban planners struggling to figure out how best to use city land. But Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is trying to change that.

In a report released last month, Stringer proposes increasing urban food production in New York City for personal, community and commercial use by 2030. He recommends legislation that would require city agencies to annually assess city-owned property and nominate suitable sites for urban agriculture.

As developed as New York City is, there are still remnants of land left, many of them overlooked or forgotten. According to a preliminary analysis of data provided by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development in 2008, more than 100 of the 454 vacant lots above 110th Street in Manhattan are city-owned and many have no development plans. In addition, significant amounts of open land on New York City Housing Authority properties that could be possible garden sites were identified.

Stringer also pushes for the creation of a citywide urban agriculture program modeled on Mayor Bloomberg’s “Million Trees NYC,” an initiative to plant one million trees throughout the city by 2030. The proposed program would aim to create and expand a set number of gardens within a specified timeframe, much like London’s campaign to plant 2,012 growing spaces by the 2012 Olympics.

The kick-off for such a program? The planting of a vegetable garden at City Hall Park. The “People’s Garden” would join numerous other gardens popping up around the country in response to the USDA’s initiative to plant gardens at its 90 offices worldwide and at churches, schools and other places. As of November 2009, the USDA had 124 People’s Gardens across the nation and even one in Seoul, South Korea. The most famous People’s Garden sits on the White House lawn.

Momentum for a People’s Garden at City Hall is building. More than 800 New Yorkers have signed an online petition to turn the pavement outside the steps of City Hall into a vegetable garden tended primarily by public schools.

“I think I’d really like to try some City Hall brussels sprouts,” said Michaela, 14, one of the students featured in a short video on the People’s Garden NYC Web site.

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Entry filed under: Community Gardens, Local Food Production, Urban Agriculture. Tags: , , , , .

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