A Brooklyn community garden that stood for 16 years in Coney Island and spread over 70,000 square feet was razed in the dead of night on Saturday, December 28. The secret bulldozing of the garden is to make way for a pet project of Marty Markowitz’s: Coney Island’s $53 million Seaside Park and Community Arts Center.
The New York Post reported that bulldozers came into the Boardwalk Community Garden directly after sunset and displaced the nearly two dozen cats and chickens that had made the garden their home. Garden volunteers spent most of the following day recovering their belongings after the garden destruction. Residents told the Post that they have “run the garden since the 1980s.”
The city insists upon no wrongdoing, and a consultant for the performing arts center project told the Post that “the urban farm was decommissioned in 2004 and was operating illegally.” Under the plan for the amphitheater, the Post reported that the city will buy the Childs building from iStar Financial and turn it into a restaurant and concert venue. The adjacent garden, the Boardwalk Community Garden, will become the seating area.
One resident told the paper that “the community does not want this amphitheater built on this land . . . but the city went ahead with this anyway. I’m heartbroken, not only for myself, but for the elderly people that were gardening here every day.”
Another resident, Elena Voitsenko, told CBS that the garden was her “second home” and that “it’s killing me already.”
Voitsenko reportedly watched as the garden was demolished.
“We were coming here so many years. We are volunteers and made it such a big job,” she told CBS. said.
“They just bulldozed it. They didn’t give us any notice. It’s very upsetting,” gardener Daria Opendek told CBS.
The community told CBS that the disputed property was designated as park land and should have been left alone. The developer said that it already helped some people to relocate to a garden just five blocks away. However, some of the gardeners have said that they they don’t think there will be enough space. Gardeners said that the demolition happened without warning or time to save the crops that they worked so hard to grow.
Coney Island Holdings told CBS that they will build more plots at the new site. Some of the gardeners plan to file a lawsuit.
The New York City Community garden Coalition released a statement immediately following the destruction of the garden. The statement states that the garden is indeed parkland that should have been protected :
“The NYCCGC has introduced documents clearly showing that the Boardwalk Community Garden is Mapped Parkland – which means that the community garden is entitled to very stringent environmental law protections against real estate development.
“NYCCGC asserts that the City is not following its own rules that govern the review process of the environmental impact assessment. In November, the City moved to change those rules in such a way that could adversely impact all community gardens. By deceptively lowering the bar, it is likely to become easier to bulldoze other existing community gardens much like what took place at 5 a.m. on December 28th.
“Recent prior talks had suggested the developer would offer gardeners alternative sites for transplanting their garden. But the pre-dawn demolition demonstrated that the developer had no such intent. While the Boardwalk Community Garden has been destroyed, the will of the people perseveres.”