Philly gardeners hope next mayor will bring security

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Philadelphia’s community gardeners want the city’s next mayor to help them secure access to the land they manage.

A group of gardeners and advocates met with Democratic mayoral candidate Cherelle Parker at the Las Parcelas Community Garden in North Philly on Tuesday to discuss the forces they say threaten community gardens in neighborhoods across the city.

“With the help of the politicians, the new mayor, these things will hopefully be corrected,” said Elizabeth Waring, manager of the Holly Street Neighbors Community Garden in West Philadelphia, which operates on land that is not entirely owned by gardeners. “The threat is always to lose that garden space… But, luckily, we are going to continue with the hope that all these problems regarding green spaces and gardens will be… turned around.”

Democratic mayoral candidate Cherelle Parker listens to gardeners and advocates ahead of the general election. (Sophia Schmidt/WHYY)

Fewer than half of the city’s community gardens are considered secure, meaning they are entirely owned by the people who manage them or by an organization that these gardeners trust to preserve the land in the long term, according to the Urban Agriculture Plan the city released earlier this year.

The group of gardeners and lawyers who met with Parker Marti also hopes to meet with Republican mayoral candidate David Oh, said organizer Ryan Gittler-Muñiz of the environmental justice organizer Public Interest Law Center. .

Gardeners Quotes development pressure as a threat to many empty places where food is grown. By 2020, planners, farmers and organizers have estimated that one in three of Philly’s farms and gardens. they were in areas of the city with a high intensity of new construction.

Mara Henao, an organizer with the César Andreu Iglesias Community Garden in North Philly, told Parker on Tuesday that the “rampant” development has created a crisis not just for the gardens, but for the people who manage the vacant side yards like and recreational space.

“What about all the little side yards and people who don’t have access to the resources to become an LLC or whatever — what happens to their culture, to their work that they put into these little yards for the last 30 years?” she said. “This is part of the culture of Philadelphia.”

Parker affirmed the importance of gardens and green spaces preserved in the city.

“I see you,” he said to the gardeners and defenders. “I hear you. I know the work you do. I know what is important to you.”

The plants grow in the Las Parcelas Community Garden in North Philly.
The plants grow in the Las Parcelas Community Garden in North Philadelphia. (Sophia Schmidt/WHYY)

This year gardeners and organizers successfully pushed the city to buy it back close to 100 liens on lots used as community gardens – mainly in West, Southwest, and North Philly – that were sold to a private lien-holder more than two decades ago. Gardeners cheered the purchase because it meant the city regained control over if and when the properties went to sheriff’s sale. But Gittler-Muñiz, of the Public Interest Law Center, said the road to transferring the properties to the gardeners was still being worked out.

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