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Green groups fear new community garden rules

Could the city let hundreds of community gardens become the turf of developers?

Green thumb groups are wary of the city’s efforts to cultivate new rules governing community gardens, as the mandates don’t make the plots permanent.

“They deserve to be permanent parts of the urban landscape,” said Sean Fleming, a Brooklyn gardener with the New York City Community Garden Coalition. “When’s the last time you’ve heard of a high-rise condo being bulldozed to put in a garden?”

The city recently drafted new rules for its 300 gardens to replace a 2002 agreement that saved them from ruin. The old agreement included more language about preserving them for the long haul, according to some City Council members, who held a vegetable-laden rally Wednesday.

“I remain very concerned that the proposed rules … do not go far enough,” Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito said.

Park Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe disagreed, saying that the rules were meant to protect gardens and the language could be tweaked to reflect the concerns. Still, the gardens can’t be made permanent, as they can sometimes cause complaints from neighbors and the city needs to hold open the option of other uses, he said.

“There is not a universal love of gardens,” said Benepe, who said no garden is currently on the chopping block. “There are no bulldozers being warmed up.”

The city will take public testimony on the rules on Aug. 11 and hopes to revise them by next month, when the old agreement sunsets.

“It’s the community,” said Rosa Serrata, 35, as she sat in the Los Amigos Garden in the East Village yesterday. “What are they going to do with the gardens if they take them away?”

Alison Bowen contributed to this story

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