Brownsville Gardeners Cry Foul Over Land Destruction

“We do need affordable housing, but we also need affordable food…,” farm director, Brends Duchense said as she joined other aggrieved Brownsville gardeners to protest.

A hardy group of urban farmers dug in deep Saturday as they fought to save a Brownsville community garden from going to seed next month, the Daily News reports.

Local residents, politicians and health food activists joined the protest at the Green Valley Community Farm — a Brooklyn staple for more than two decades, now facing a major January eviction.

This is our Whole Foods,” said Paul Muhammed, co-chair of the Community Board 5 economics committee. “We took the land and built a farm. Affordable is a misnomer. It’s do-for-self. We did it.”

According to the two dozen Brownsville gardeners who protested, the land was sold for $4 to a developer who plans to build up to 20 units of affordable housing.

“Whose farm? Our farm!” the demonstrators chanted. “Whose community? Our community!”

The farm is located across from five lots, with the city Housing Preservation and Development agency now poised to peddle four of the properties.

A statement from HPD said a 2012 agreement between the city and the farm had provided for use of just the single lot for the garden.

The challenges we face demand that we make thoughtful choices and find creative solutions to identify sites for affordable housing as well as green space,” the statement read.

The city hopes to work with the local community to “creatively utilize” existing space in Brownsville for the garden going forward.

But farm director Brenda Duchense said new construction should not come at the expense of the neighborhood’s primary source of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and other vegetables.

We do need affordable housing,” she said. “But we also need affordable food. This community, they call a food desert. If there is a food desert, and people are trying to help and grow food, why stop that?”

The aggrieved Brownsville gardeners gathered in a greenhouse — part of a farm spread that includes bee hives, fruit trees and an education center.

Duchense, 55, said the disadvantaged neighborhood where Mike Tyson grew up remains in dire need of the farm and its vegetables.

We are getting second-hand food in this community,” she said. “The garden is our farm area. Our education area. The schools bring their students here.”

Brownsville resident Muhammed, 60, complained the development project ignored the wishes of the local community.

The whole impetus with affordable housing has nothing to with people,” he said. “It’s profits. This is our home. We live here … We learn how to eat to live here, not to live to eat.”

There is a need for city authorities to consult the Brownsville gardeners before invading their lands. The destruction of the community gardens is unacceptable though there need for affordable housing cannot be downplayed. On the other hand, what will be the need for an affordable housing if the source of food for the community is destroyed? What will they feed on?

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