BREAKING: A McCarren Park Land Grab?

I have received no less than two emails about this in ten minutes. M writes:

Stephanie Thayer’s “crew”  is taking down the fence around what she refers to as the renegade garden on the corner of Bayard and Lorimer this second. It has been there for over 10 years. It is beautiful. This is not right. Is there ANYTHING that you can think of for us to do?

Here’s another item Katherine Naplatarski was thoughtful enough to forward to me:

hey all,

just at the park. if anyone’s around today, sat., go talk to folks at red something-or-other garden in mcC at corner of bayard and lorimer- gina, walid. they should be there most of the day. steph ordered their fence taken down today by parks and for the boy scouts to plant in garden.

they have been there for 12 years and are really upset and angry.

that’s the short of it. they would appreciate help and the word spread.

I’m not against the Boy Scouts having a garden. But this is ridiculous— and begs a lot of questions:

  1. How did this get approved?
  2. Why weren’t the people behind this park notified?
  3. Why did the Parks Department elect to remove this fence on a Saturday?
  4. Why did the Parks Department elect to remove this fence when they knew a great many people— community activists foremost among them— would be attending the Visitor’s Center Opening at the Newtown Creek Waste Treatment Facility?

All in all, I think this stinks. BIG TIME. If you agree please call the peeps behind this garden: Gina at (646) 266-9526 or Walid at (212) 464-8096 and voice your support.


Miss Heather

UPDATE, April 25, 2010: I have been told the boy scouts were planting in this area for one day (as opposed to permanently). While I certainly do not object to this it still does not answer the question as to how this came pass without anyone seemingly knowing about it. I did and do find this very troubling.

UPDATE, April 26, 2010; 11:30 p.m.: Here is an email from Miss Mousey Brown (who shot the above photographs) which was sent to David Rivel, the Director of the City Parks Organization, various Parks Department Officials, and many, many more:

My point of view on The Red Gate Garden is fairly clear. If you refer to my flickr set of photos and description of what happened this past weekend one can see that I do have a bias towards the situation; and my reaction was of a regular neighbor, friend, and infrequent contributer to the garden. I have given them plants. They have given me plants. I allow them to come and wash up, or use the bathroom facilities at my business on the corner. I pick a few weeds, and ask plenty of questions about plants.

My business, Mousey Brown Salon ( est. in 1997 on Bedford Avenue), moved to the corner of Bayard and Lorimer st.
6 years ago, come June. I see everything that happens on that corner from about 9 am until as late as 11p, seven days a week. I know that the NYDS street sweeping truck, actually cleaned Lorimer’s gutter for the first time in a year last week.
I have seen the NYPD herd middle school children that want to hang out, and be teenagers being teenagers (some, but not all, of them extremely troublesome/dangerous); swiftly off the block, or onto city buses. It’s not the school’s job to worry about a kid from the school setting the tail light of one of my clients new car on fire. The fist fights are not anyone’s job to breakup. I am known to offer first aid or call 911, but that is about it. The Skateboard Park folks, that I am so happy to see having fun and getting exercise, have twice referred to me as the Band Aid Lady. Clearly, I have a bias to this corner of McCarren Park. It is from one that cares about it. I care about it’s safety. I care about it’s beauty, cleanliness, and usage.

If, I had a dime for every public urination, a dollar for every noxious charcoal barbecuing (not legal btw), a nickel for every time I let a stranger use our bathroom (including all the concerts when the gates didn’t open until 7, and concert goers started showing up at 3)… well, I could have enough cash to pitch in to help preserve Red Gate Garden from the parks department.
There seems to be some concern that the garden is exclusionary. The wind fence that is in place to protect all the small closely planted flowers, vines, bushes, and trees from careless foot traffic. Even the Green Dome garden in the center of McCarren Park, which is absolutely viable as an award winning community garden within a city park, is locked at times. Why? Because there are three types of people. People that are careful and respect all things. People that make careless mistakes and have had a lapse in their sense of respecting their surroundings. And the people that do not care about any consequence to anything. It is why we have doors, and gates, and locks.

That a few people have taken it upon themselves to sustain, cultivate, and protect a very small slice of a public park should be commended. If you have felt not welcome to engage in the garden, then I am sorry that you have felt excluded. That has been in no way the intent of it’s caretakers. In the 12 years that Gina and Walid have been the “gatekeepers” to the garden, not but a handful of us have shown interest in partaking in it. Sometimes a note complimenting the flowers, offering help is left on the fence. None has returned any call back to them to accept their offer to help. I am so angry of any suggestion that this is in any way a private garden. That is so far from the reality. Honestly, if you really know McCarren Park, how long do you think that the little plants coming up would survive, if there were no fence around it ?

If I were smart, I would leave it alone right there. I suppose I am not, because I want to know why the hell a person from the parks department thinks it’s okay to rip down the fence without notice. The same person that had a comm comm with their other employer, the tuesday before to discuss all the new ideas for McCarren Park. It is a dirty, illogical, and inconsiderate way to meet one’s needs. If, I had ever heard at a cb1 meeting, from an OSA (or any other civic group) comm comm , or even through the grapevine, that the garden was an “issue” then this wouldn’t be happening. It is.

My last incoming email on the topic from a reporter, suggested that according to his source with admin in McCarren Park,  is that this is all just a misunderstanding on behalf of Parks Dept and the garden.

I’ll say it is. How awkward. The upside is that is an opportunity for the community to express their feelings about it. Involved parties are fully aware that changes are on the horizon. I am thinking there will be lots more tenders to this small public oasis, and an appreciation of what it represents.

Oh yeah, it would appear this park was protected by a written agreement with the state and the city (NOTE: hit “control +” or “Apple +” to magnify). Whoops.


Photo Credits: Miss Mousey Brown. You can see her full demolition set by clicking here.


13 Comments on BREAKING: A McCarren Park Land Grab?

  1. Xris (Flatbush Gardener) on Sat, 24th Apr 2010 4:00 pm
  2. The garden is Nick’s Garden,

    I’ve forwarded this to the Community Garden groups. Hopefully someone can intervene.

  3. missheather on Sat, 24th Apr 2010 4:08 pm
  4. Thanks. I am *really* pissed off about this.

  5. pollisp on Sat, 24th Apr 2010 8:30 pm
  6. This garden should have been everyone’s garden. I’ve lived here since ’87, and I was troubled by the fact that these two were given the authority to appropriate a precious slice of McCarren Park back in the day. This feeling was further compounded when they extended their fencing to reach all the way to the main fence on Bayard a few years ago. More precious land taken. I beg to differ with your assertion that the gate was never locked and that all were welcome. Au contraire. Just a few weeks ago I saw Walid fussing with the padlock for half an hour. There was no open door policy here. Over the years I have only witnessed the same small group of people hanging out in their private oasis. Why couldn’t this space have been cultivated in the same manner as the public garden by the dog run? This ‘garden’ needs to be taken from an elite few, and given back to the comunity.

  7. missheather on Sat, 24th Apr 2010 8:55 pm
  8. And by “the community” you mean the Boy Scouts of America?

  9. pollisp on Sat, 24th Apr 2010 9:10 pm
  10. By the community I mean more than a community of 2 – which is what it’s been for the last 12 years. At least take the fence down and make it more of a public domain.

  11. missheather on Sat, 24th Apr 2010 9:24 pm
  12. So you are amenable to a private organization— one whose views do not jibe with the community— growing a garden here?

  13. neighborhood threat on Sat, 24th Apr 2010 9:45 pm
  14. Where did they say they were giving the garden to the Boy Scouts?

    From what I have heard there are two sides to this story. It would be appropriate, I hope, that both of them were aired here.

  15. missheather on Sat, 24th Apr 2010 9:53 pm
  16. @Neighbor Threat: people in the know. I’d very like to hear the other side of this story but given how our parks department “works” I doubt we’ll get it. The story.

  17. pollisp on Sat, 24th Apr 2010 10:10 pm
  18. I AM ‘AMENABLE’ TO THE SHARING OF THIS PARK. I feel no sympathy for an entitled couple for the loss of their appropriated corner of my park and your park. And that garden is a sorry excuse for a garden, I might add. I don’t give a diddlysquat about groups and their views jibing with the community, etc., whatever that means. I assume you’re referring to the Boy Scouts. And who’s to say what the views of this community are?? That’s a presumptuous statement to make, and has nothing whatsoever to do with my issue. Simply put, this ‘land grab’ happened 12 years ago. Should there by some discussion about what happens there??? Absolutely. Currently, the fence provides a dandy target for peeing males and provides them with the illusion of privacy-in-the-act. Let’s start by taking it down. (that corner of the park really needs some facilities)

  19. missheather on Sat, 24th Apr 2010 10:32 pm
  20. Are all the various and sundry problems you outlined due to this “entitled couple” or bad management by the Parks Department? I’d argue the latter.

    I agree with you that there should be real and meaningful dialog about this and other parks issues. Otherwise your “reasoning” is nothing more than a bunch of red herrings and hot air. I’m not taking the bait.

  21. pollisp on Sat, 24th Apr 2010 11:32 pm
  22. I have not outlined various nor sundry problems. There is an issue with a corner of a public park and what should happen to said corner. End. Of. ‘Issue’. Until the Parks Dept weighs in, the issue will not be resolved.

    The “entitled” twosome have had 12 years of private guardianship. Time to share?? I say yes.

    I’m not offering “bait”. This is called a discussion and I’m voicing my opinion. And I reiterate what ‘neighborhood threat’ said. How’s about airing the other side?? Take that bait.

  23. missheather on Sat, 24th Apr 2010 11:43 pm
  24. Let the other side give their take. Unless they’re off-color I’ll gladly approve them— even if I disagree with them.

  25. SpillConspirator on Sat, 12th Jun 2010 10:34 pm
  26. This baffles me. Why are people so upset about this garden having a gate, when Green Dome has a gate as well? The only visible difference is that Green Dome has been fortunate enough to get a wroth iron fence. With a wrought iron fence and some help, Red Gate would be just as nice as Green Dome. A wrought iron fence makes it possible to leave the garden open when unattended. The wooden fence is flimsy therefore cannot be left open when unattended. My sense is that there is a land grab going on here, just like the one along the waterfront.

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