Yesterday, activists attempted to block the construction crews from razing a community garden in Harlem. The city has been planning to remove the Nueva Esperanza Garden at 110th and Fifth Avenue and replace it with a new building for the Museum of African Art. But critics question whether it's really a museum or a guise for new condominiums. There are supposed to be 115 luxury units in the building, and Times Up writes the museum part "has no collections and will house a few small rooms for lectures."
Volunteers have actually been living at the garden for the a year, preparing for an eventual showdown. The garden's president, Anthony Bowman, told Metro, "Before the garden, this was a dump. This was a crack street that nobody walked down. This garden stabilized the community. That's why developers are coming. Now the city is giving the land to developers." And the Green Gorillas' Hannah Riseley-White tells amNew York that the city has lost almost 100 community gardens to development since the 1990s, and of the 60 gardens currently under threat, 20 are in East Harlem.
As for what happened yesterday, here's Times' Up on the siege and next steps:
The siege by developers on the Nueva Esperanza Garden on E 110th street is now over, for now. The standoff did not escalate as expected and no arrests were made, though many of the flower and vegetable beds were destroyed by heavy pickup trucks driving all over the garden. The Gardeners were allowed to get their personal effects, but their casita was destroyed and those encamping in the garden were thrown out. The developers have set up their own encampment in the garden with security guards and a trailer. One gardener climbed a tree, but came down when a meeting with Scott Stringer and the gardeners was promised. Many supporters responded to our call, press, and elected officials too. Thanks especially to Bill Perkins, State Senator for showing up. An injunction is being filed tomorrow morning in the courts and other legal processes are in the works. Attend the Harlem United Gardeners Meeting in City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito's office on East 116th Street tomorrow evening. More information is also at www.moregardens.org
The museum's new building was announced in February, when Mayor Bloomberg said, "Now at last, the Museum will have an extraordinary new venue on Museum Mile that will allow it to vastly expand its reach and service to New Yorkers and visitors from around the world. This stunning new facility will also serve as a new cultural gateway to Harlem."
Photograph by Philipp Rassmann for Time's Up on Flickr, which has a set from the standoff