In New York City, the people who manage community gardens have coalesced into a political force to be reckoned with as former mayor Rudy Giuliani found out the hard way.

During World War I and World War II, gardening programs were used as a way to inculcate patriotism and promote gardening as a civilian duty and a way to participate in the war effort. Post-World War II, however, government gardening programs ceased while federal funds became available for urban renewal projects to clear out low-income neighborhoods and begin new development. These urban renewal projects often targeted minority groups, resulting in increased racial segregation, gentrification (the process whereby wealthier individuals move into lower-income neighborhoods, thereby prompting cultural shifts, increases in prices and the displacement of long-standing, lower-income residents) and the disruption of low-income community bonds and social networks. In response, a city program called Operation GreenThumb was launched in 1978 which took legal control over all community gardens by issuing short-term leases to the gardeners and encouraging the creation of new gardens on city-owned lots. Trouble for the gardens began brewing again in 1998, when Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani placed all community gardens–more than 700 in total–up for disposition to […]

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