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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 762: XXVII International Horticultural Congress - IHC2006: International Symposium on Horticultural Plants in Urban and Peri-Urban Life

URBAN GARDENS AND POVERTY: ANALYSIS ON THE EXAMPLE OF THE COMMUNITY GARDENS IN THE SOUTH BRONX OF NEW YORK CITY

Author:   C. Mees
Keywords:   inner city dwelling, open space, low-income residents, gentrification, legalization, land use
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2007.762.20
Abstract:
With the beginning of the industrialization in the United States in the nineteenth century, impoverished residents have settled in densely built, multi-story apartment buildings in the urban centers with little open space accessible. Gardens for the urban poor were for decades only established in context with relief efforts in times of national crisis, like WWI, the Great Depression, and WWII. In the global economic depression of the 1970s, inner city dwellings were abandoned and burned down. Concomitantly, community gardens sprouted up on vacant lots initiated by low-income inner city residents too poor to move. The gentrification that followed their effort put the community’s gardens at risk for demolition and the residents in danger of being pushed out by newcomers and developers. Only since 2002 most of the existing community gardens in New York City are protected through the community gardens agreement in their legal status for the next years. This development is analyzed here through the example of the South Bronx of New York City. As one of the poorest congressional districts of the nation it shows a great abundance of community gardens. The organization of these gardens, their continuation, use, and participation is looked at in order to determine their function and justification of existence, and to examine the possibility of protecting them as an urban land-use. The analysis shows that once residents of a neighborhood become more prosperous, the number of community gardens declines. Urban gardens are a constant factor in urban development and permanence is anticipated when they are created. It is proven that organization of the community is needed to prevent the loss of these accessible open spaces in the inner city. Community gardens are pendants to the tenement buildings. They have to be protected as long-term urban open space institutions and established for use of varying participants so that the inner city can be a residential location with a high quality of life for everybody.

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