It would be hypocritical to suggest that I haven’t done well in my gentrifying Crown Heights neighborhood.
When I moved here 13 years ago, some friends thought I was insane. Now, of course, they think I’m a genius. Despite the real estate meltdown that started in 2008, the sales of Brooklyn’s real estate market have been kind to homeowners who stuck it out, adding zeros onto the value of our properties.
On our block, homeowners know one another, as do our children, who skateboard down the street and play in nearby parks.
For the kids and parents, the neighborhood isn’t simply a place to return to from school or the subway after work. It’s home, the place you feel connected to through memories.
That’s why the proposed demolition of the Imani Community Garden in Crown Heights — a local institution since the 1980s — to make way for affordable housing is hard to take.
I understand the city lacks affordable housing — but at what cost do we build it? What about the kids who already live surrounded by hulking apartments and congested streets?
As with many real estate transactions in NYC, some people will make a lot of money, which has nothing to do with being community minded. If the garden goes, Crown Heights will be losing a neighborhood resource:
It houses hens and wild bunnies.
It holds free workshops and affordable field trips for Brooklyn schools.
It offers fresh organic food for residents who would otherwise not be able to afford it.
I haven’t relied on the Imani Community Garden on Schenectady Avenue — the one on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s target list — but I have used the garden on Bergen Street and Nostrand Avenue and value its importance. Imani, like 17 other community gardens at risk to make way for affordable housing, is in fact, owned by NYC, so technically the city has the right to do with it what it wants.
But de Blasio has said his administration does not intend to bulldoze gardens that have local support. “We’ll make those decisions in partnership with each community,” he has said.
Let’s hope he means what he says and keeps the developers away from our green spaces.
Jeff Vasishta lives in Crown Heights.