Brook Park Community Garden refuses to sign new NYC Parks license

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Community gardens across New York City operate with a GreenThumb license from the Parks Department that is renewed every four years.

About 75 community gardens have refused to sign the new license due to liability concerns, and Brook Park Community Garden in Mott Haven is one of them.

The Sept. 20 deadline to sign the new license has come and gone, and president of the New York City Community Garden Coalition and Brook Park Community Garden member Raymond Figueroa Jr. says he has no intention of signing it or seeing the garden gates close.

"The city can't have it both ways. They're the owner, but when it comes to liability issues they do not take responsibility," says Figueroa Jr.

Figueroa says his main issues are that all risk is to be assumed by the garden, not the city. That the license can be terminated at will and that the garden must maintain the sidewalks surrounding it.

While he's working to meet the city halfway, he says most of all he wants people to know how essential the garden is to the community.

"This was a drug highway, this was a shortcut to get away from the police," says Figueroa Jr.

Now, it provides a much different type of road.

"We're developing a relationship with Mother Earth as much as we're developing a relationship with each other as neighbors," say Figueroa Jr.

The garden hosts environmental education workshops, works with the developmentally disabled, hosts community meetings and more.

"We also have an alternative to incarceration programs. Those young people involved in that initiative harvest to a local food pantry," says Figueroa Jr.

The Brook Community Garden not only serves the direct community where they come to gather, grow and learn, but it also serves a restaurant on the block.

"We have two beds there, so we grow when it's in season, our chili peppers, garlic, cilantro," says Marcus Saavedra, La Morada manager.

Saavedra uses the fresh vegetables in his restaurant.

"It's a source of pride, but it's also very healthy and necessary, especially with food scarcity," says Saavedra.

Aside from harvesting, he believes the space is essential.

"I think it's vital, it's such a community center, it's such an open space for folks, a safe space," says Saavedra.

The Parks Department told News 12 in a statement, “NYC Parks has no plans at this point to lock out gardeners. We prepared the updated GreenThumb license in close conversation with our network of thousands of community gardeners, with few changes to the previous agreement."

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