Saturday barbecues in a park? Under threat of yet more concrete!

arborcide Ahead.jpg

Saturday June 15th, a group of community members and their activist supporters made their position clear with chalk on the pavements: “Community is more Important than Real Estate” and “Gentrification without Representation”.

The proposal by the New York City Council, as part of its ‘Parks without Borders’ initiative, to cut down more than 50 trees and pave over the resulting clear cut, is part of a move to make some city parks more open and accessible to the public.

In this instance, it is a move strongly opposed by ‘The Friends of Fort Greene Park’, a community group drawn from people living around the park.

Those resisting the proposal chose a fundraising day for the Fort Greene Park Conservancy to make their feelings known.

A banner was raised proclaiming “Arborcide – Crime Scene Ahead”. It was accompanied by the logo of the non-violent civil disobedience group Extinction Rebellion, recently so successful in shutting down parts of London in order to get a climate emergency announced.

The land in question is adjacent to the Ingersoll Whitman public housing and is used by residents as a place to relax and enjoy their summer weekends and evenings. The move to fell trees and concrete over public green space is regarded by many as yet another example of gentrification on the move in New York City.

Further, at a time when this carbon-choked world needs more trees, not fewer, and less concrete, not more, some people don’t seem to be getting the message.

An apparent resistance to transparency by those in positions of power raises questions about just what is driving this proposal. It is difficult to find out. The Mayor’s Fund is effectively a pot of money to which it is possible to make anonymous donations.

The Friends of Fort Greene Park sued under the Freedom of Information Act, and had to take the city to court twice to get access to the unredacted documents from the initial analysis of possible changes to the park. Apparently there was no mention of a plaza and, instead, the documents asserted that the trees should remain.

Today saw an enormous Father’s Day celebration with at least 100 people, barbecues, and a bouncy castle among the trees. The residents and their supporters want it to stay that way.