For Immediate Release
May 5, 1999

Standing Our Ground Archives

Environmental Justice, Garden Groups To File
Federal Discrimination
Suit Against Mayor
to Stop Auction of City’s Gardens

Tomorrow, Thursday, May 6th,the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, the New York City Community Garden Coalition, and the More Gardens! Coalition will file suit in federal court in an attempt to prevent the Mayor from auctioning off hundreds of New York City’s community gardens to the highest bidder. The first auction is scheduled for May 13th.

The suit is brought under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It charges that the auction discriminates against the mostly poor and minority neighborhoods where the majority of gardens are located. The groups are represented by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Urban Environmental Law Center. (Litigation papers are available upon request.)

Title VI forbids discrimination against minority groups by recipients of federal funds in any of their programs and activities. Since the Mayor’s office received $30,000 in federal funds from the US Environmental Protection Agency, the groups claim that the City must comply with the non-discrimination edict.

"It’s clear from even a quick perusal of the list of gardens to be auctioned that minority communities are disproportionately impacted by the impending garden auction," said Leslie Lowe, Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. "In Manhattan, for example, almost every single one of the gardens up for auction is located on the Lower East Side or in Harlem, clearly mostly poor or working class communities of color. As a matter of fact, gardens in communities of color are more than twice as likely to be in the auction than gardens in other communities," she added.

In bringing the lawsuit, the plaintiffs have engaged the services of expert statistician Andrew A. Beveridge of Queens College. His research shows a distinct pattern of discrimination in the City’s garden auction scheme. "The racial composition of the neighborhood is directly related to the chance of garden lots being placed at auction," explained Mr. Beveridge.

The groups also claim in the suit that the sale of the gardens violates the rules of the US Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD). The City has received millions of dollars in Community Development Block Grants for Operation Green Thumb, which administers the garden programs in the City. Once the City used these federal funds, it was precluded from simply selling the land or destroying the garden improvements.

Plaintiffs are seeking a preliminary injunction against the City, to prohibit it from bulldozing, selling or otherwise destroying the gardens until there has been a comprehensive look at the environmental, recreational and economic value of the gardens to the communities where they are located and to the City as a whole.

Advisory–For Your Information

Press Conference Today Will Announce Title VI Lawsuit

The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund will hold a 5 pm press conference today, May 5, 1999 announcing the Title VI lawsuit at Borough of Manhattan Community College, Main Entrance, Chambers and Washington Streets in Manhattan. Plaintiff representatives will be in attendance. Your coverage is welcome.