Clg community-garden reporters-book


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Clg community-garden reporters-book

  1. 1. 1.1 Description What do they do? (Description of service idea, e.g. a community garden, a food coop, etc). What are the demands/problems this initiative responds to? What is the aim of the initiative? What happens and how does it happens? What benefits does it bring to the neighborhood? The Creative Little Garden is essentially a “community backyard” for the entire Lower East Side community. Everyone, not only members, can relax, read, have lunch, work on a laptop or just enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the garden. The garden also exhibits the work of a few selective artists. You can even hold a private event at a very low cost. The tranquility of this green leisure space is an escape from the city’s business and lack of greenery. Not much happens in the garden; it is simply a beautiful zen environment. The plants are planted and maintained by a volunteer manager with little help from the members. The same applies for the landscape maintenance. The garden adds charm, beautifies and compliments the neighborhood. Nearly 30 years old, it has certainly contributed to the turnaround of the Lower East Side as a safe neighborhood, from Alphabet City to what it is today. 1.2 Context What is this neighborhood like? How was it before this new solution took place? The neighborhood felt very safe and tranquil, the streets weren’t over crowded, and passers-by seemed pretty friendly. The Creative Little Garden website contained a very in-depth description of what the neighborhood once was:   “In the 1840s and 1850s, the area was considered part of the Lower East Side, and became home to Eastern European Jews, Irish, and Italian immigrants. One of the worst slums in the city and the red light district of Manhattan, it consisted of tenement housing with no running water.   “By the middle of the 20th century, Alphabet City was again in transition, as thousands of Hispanics began to settle in the neighborhood. “   “Through the 50's and early 60's several buildings on this block became abandoned. By the 1960’s and '70’s, what was once “Kleindeutschland” and the red light district had evolved into "Loisaida" ("Spanglish" for "Lower East Side"). Many buildings fell into disrepair, many were torn down (including the one that occupied our present Creative Little Garden) and some were homesteaded, taken over by anyone who were willing to maintain them. Some were renovated, some homesteaded and a few were totally demolished, including the building that once stood on the land before the Creative Little Garden existed. In 1978 the land was marked for a community garden and in 1982 opened as the “Creative Little Garden.””
  2. 2. 1.3 History of the initiative How did the project/initiative start? Who took the initiative? Why? Can you describe a timeline of events, highlighting success and failure aspects, major milestones? How far can you go back? How did this initiative mature? How did it turn to be a real enterprise? (registered, formalized etc.) Did it receive public or private support of any kind? Did it help change the public or policy structure? After she received a long-term lease from the Green Thumb Program, the Creative Little Garden was founded by a French lady named Françoise Cachelin in 1978. She took on the initiative in order to beautify the block, which was just a lot filled with debris from the original building’s demolition in the early sixties. By providing the community with a garden, she intended to contribute to the neighbourhood’s recovery and to increase safety. Françoise obtained help from the community residents to clean up the lot and chase out the drug dealers. Later that year, Liz Christy from the Council on the Environment’s Plant-A-Lot program selected Creative Little Garden as a project site. The council helped volunteers by providing trees (including the current willow tree), shrubs, ground covers and soil as well as technical advice. The website mentions certain difficulties that arose in 1981 when an individual attempted to rehab an adjacent building to the garden. This caused considerable damage to the garden and the retaining members were harassed and became afraid to work in the garden. However, in 1982, most of these problems were resolved and in 1983, the garden was incorporated into a land trust (a not for profit organization) to obtain tax exempt status. The land trust was registered under the name of the Creative Little Garden and its status is still in effect today. Later, the city banished open fires in the park (there was a fireplace that was used in the garden before it was established) and in the 1990’s, the fence marking the entrance of the park was built. In 2006, a wall of the adjacent building was reduced to half its size to allow sunlight in the park. Also in 2006, the garden was again placed in peril and closed for several months after the adjacent building’s basement wall collapsed. Tons of dirt and plants slid into the basement next door. The ivy also had to be removed due to damages caused to the neighbour building’s brick. Positively, these two situations allowed for more light to enter the garden (from the reflection). In 2006-2007, the garden has seen a rejuvenation. Tons of new soil were added as well as a new watering system, new furniture, fresh paint, new signs, etc. A dogwood tree donated by the Green Guerillas was also planted along with over 60 diverse plants. 1.4 Main actors Who are the users of this initiative? Who are the promoters of this initiative? Is there a difference between users and promoters or are they basically the same? Describe users and promoters lifestyles? Do the users work as a group or groups? Is there a network of related organizations and/ or individuals? Do they have any form of connection or exchange with other similar initiatives? Was the group inspired by other examples? Do you know counter examples, (of service ideas that did not take-off), cases that went wrong? The garden is opened to the general public to use. The promoters of the garden include the head manager, Steve. Steve single-handedly maintains and continues to improve the garden, as well as updating the website. The primary proactive promoter of the garden is the manager, Steve since he is the one who is maintaining every aspects of the garden. However, there are a few head members who make the political decisions of the garden, including the president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. The actual users of the garden can also be seen as indirect promoters who can thus pass the good word about the garden to others. The users of the garden are usually locals who live around the neighborhood, although they can also be passers-by who happen to stumble upon the garden. also live in the garden’s neighborhood, however, they are passionate about gardening and the general maintenance of the garden.   The users/members don’t really work at all for the garden as far as maintaining it. It is required to work four hours in order to become a member of the garden, but that is as far as it goes. There are a few networks of related organizations including the Green Thumb, the Creative Little Garden Organization, and the Council on the on the Environment’s Plant-A-Lot program, and the Green Guerillas. Taken from the Green Thumb’s website, “As the largest community gardening program in the country, Green Thumb is proud to support community gardens in New York City… we've been committed to providing support to help strengthen gardens, strengthen gardener skills, and strengthen communities.” The Creative Little Garden Organization is the garden itself that formed its own organization. The Council on the on the Environment’s Plant-A-Lot program, (which is now known as Grown NYC) is “a hands-on non-profit which improves New York City’s quality of life through environmental programs that transform communities block by block and empower all New Yorkers to secure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.” The Green Guerillas “use a mix of education, organizing, and advocacy to help people cultivate community gardens, sustain grass root groups and coalitions, engage youth, paint colorful murals, and address issues critical to the future of their gardens.” There are no counter example cases that were problematic.
  3. 3. 1.5. Technologies What are the technologies that the group uses? How are they used in system? The garden has a website, which was built and is maintained by the manager, Steve. He also maintains a Facebook page. The garden also has its own blog linked to the website, but it is not active: there are only three posts and no recent updates. This blog is a project of the members but it is not successful and not used effectively. The garden has a watering system again maintained by Steve only. There is no electricity in the park, but during winter, Steve borrows the electricity from the neighbouring building to power Christmas bulbs in the trees. He also has the intention of placing little fountains around the park to accentuate the relaxing sounds of the garden. These are the only technologies involved and they are operated primarily by only one person, the manager. 1.6. Communication What communication materials do the group have? (e.g. website, brochures, postcards, etc). What is the main purpose of these materials? e.g. to keep participants updated about activities (internal communication) or to get more participants (external communication)? Does the group want to have more participants? The garden has a website, a Facebook page and a blog (not active). The website is rich in information: there is an about us section with the history of the garden, contact and membership details, services, events with calendars, opening hours, photos, etc. In the garden itself, there is a more in-depth packet with its complete history. Next to the packet, there is also a book where visitors can write their contact information and comments. The purpose of these communication materials are to keep the participants updated and get more participants involved (both internal and external communication). The garden certainly wants to have more participants as members since members generate funding for the garden. The members are also a free form of marketing through word of mouth. The garden however doesn’t intend to increase its number of users since it intends to keep the same level of tranquility; more traffic is not desirable and only generates more chaos. The garden simply cannot afford more people due to space and current sitting options.
  4. 4. 1.7. Perspective for the future What are the perspective/objectives of the group for the next 3-5 years? What are some of the success factors and possible risks in the short medium and long term? Steve, the manager of the garden explained that he has many goals that he would like to accomplish as far as improving the garden. His objectives include painting the entrance fence green instead of black for a more natural tone, rebuilding the patio, new furniture around the garden, putting a fountain in the back of the garden, etc. He also wants to “collaborate forces” with local restaurants, so he can hold catered events in the garden. Some of the success factors are maintaining the garden in general and keeping it open for longer periods of time. Costs of maintenance is a significant risk factor, also the costs with collaborating with restaurants could be quite expensive, thus making it a risk. 1.8. Problems and opportunities Are there any specific issues/problems/barriers that pose threats to the initiative? Are there any main areas of concern among the participants (leaders and users alike)? Are there any opportunities that could be explored (that are currently not explored)? Fundraising is one issue that poses a threat to the initiative. Funding is essential for any future possibilities for the garden. Also, a main area of concern within the garden is finding dedication and commitment from the members. There are also political issues involving the heads of the garden and concluding unanimous decisions (i.e. bench color, design, and art.)
  5. 5. 1.9. Indications of other social innovation Do the users participate in other entrepreneurial endeavors? Do they form small initiatives on their own? Are members involved in other “sustainable” services within the community? (Ex. Food Co-op, carpooling, community gardens, etc)? Do you see evidence of wider networks that these users contribute to?   As mentioned in 1.8, there is a lack of entrepreneurial endeavors. Members join with enthusiasm and quickly lose the drive. The main manager Steve involved himself with a sustainable service called Environment’s Plant-A-Lot program where he and designer Linn Christie used existing debris (i.e. wood, cement, etc) to form the path way through the middle of the garden, leaving growth for plants on either side. 1.10. References Website of the initiative Interviewee name and contact information (email, address, phone number) Other references (websites, articles, other people we should talk to) Steve Rose Environment’s Plant-A-Lot program Green Guerillas
  6. 6. Quantitative Data Exercise How many members does the initiative have? How many are very active in the initiative? How does individual spaces compare with shared/group spaces? How many members are involved in other community-based services? (Food Co-op, activist orgs, clothes swapping, bike sharing, etc.) What is the size of the initiative in square footage? Data Exercise: 52 members in 2009 Voting members range from 10-50 people Limited number of active members, main manager runs the organization/garden. The number of members helping the community outside the garden is unknown.