Liberty Community Gardens (LCG) is Battery Park City’s neighborhood community gardening project, currently located at Albany Street alongside the Rector Street Bridge ramp. Liberty Gardens was established in 1987 by local residents with assistance from the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy. LCG is part of a long tradition of NYC and national community gardening - well over 20,000 people participate in hundreds of community gardens citywide, tens of thousands more garden across the country, and internationally, in many types of gardens and under a variety of organizational structures. Our local inspiration was the community garden at nearby Washington Market Park, which opened in 1983.
LCG members literally “broke ground” in the fall of 1987. The BPC Parks Conservancy (BPCPC) had lifted the sod from the north and south edges of the Rector lawn, ordered topsoil and donated cobblestones to edge the plots. Gardeners took the raw materials and laid out their plots, approximately 6 by 8 feet, according to a mapped plan. Initially there were about 12 plots each on the North and South sides of the lawn. By the next year an additional 6 -8 were added on each side. Eventually, to meet popular demand, 20 more plots were added along West Street.
After the devastation of 9/11, Liberty Community Gardens, which are several short blocks away from the World Trade Center site, faced an enormous challenge. Gardeners were displaced to unknown locations, and the gardens themselves were covered with smothering ash, dust and debris. And in short order, the north section of the gardens was appropriated for the base of a new temporary highway crossing, the Rector Street Bridge.
Neighborhood advocates worked with local groups to restore the gardens. The BPC Parks Conservancy staff cleaned the plants, leaf by leaf, in what was then a restricted area. The Liberty Court condominium offered the use of their lawn space for garden plots, so that the project could continue with its full complement of gardeners in the spring of 2002. Tully Construction donated thousands of dollars to replace destroyed plants and tools. Meanwhile, community gardeners in Seattle had composted the plant materials from that city’s 9/11 Million Flower Memorial. In the fall of 2002, they sought the community garden closest to the World Trade Center site and shipped more than 1,000 pounds of “Million Flower” compost to NYC to celebrate the rededication of Liberty Community Gardens. The compost arrived with a delegation of Seattle gardeners, songwriters, musicians and a City Council member, who participated in the rededication of Liberty Gardens with their NYC counterparts.
From the archives of The Broadsheet, Battery Park City's community newspaper:
Kathy Gupta, one of the original founders of the Liberty Community Gardens, looked around at the 50 people gathered to rededicate the gardens, and told of guerrilla action taken by an unnamed gardener last fall, when debris still littered the ground and the future of the entire neighborhood was uncertain. “I knew we were going to be okay when he came by night, jumped over the fence, evaded the National Guard, and planted tulip bulbs so that there would be flowers this year,” she said to appreciative applause.
Taking his turn at the podium, Battery Park City Authority president Tim Carey recalled the uncertainty of a year ago. “The buildings were empty,” he said. “The gardens were covered with ash and paper. All night and all day we smelled the burning fires. But there was hope.”
An emotional Tessa Huxley, executive director of the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy and known as the “patron saint” of the community gardens, said, “These gardens to me are very special. People need contact with the earth. People need a way to create life.”
The Broadsheet, October 6, 2002
The story of the rebirth of Liberty Community Gardens was also told by author Joy Carol in her 2003 book Journeys of Courage: Stories of Spiritual, Social and Political Healing of Communities.
Eventually, the land between West Street and Battery Park City was redesigned and rebuilt as a permanent park, and Liberty Community Gardens received the space at Albany Street, formerly a parking lot, as a new permanent home where all the gardeners could finally be together in one place. Once the Rector Bridge and ramp are dismantled, LCG will expand west and gain new plot space.
Liberty Community Gardens Inc. was incorporated as a New York not-for-profit corporation on March 4, 2008. LCG is a social club, providing residents of the neighborhood an opportunity to participate in a community garden, to socialize with fellow gardeners, and to discuss gardening in general. To foster these goals, LCG organizes social events such as group gardening days, occasional picnics, and education lectures, and operates a table at the annual neighborhood block party.
Membership is open to members of the Battery Park City community. Each member is required to sign an annual contract and pay dues of $20 each year. The contract sets forth the rules and regulations of the Gardens. The primary obligation of gardeners is to actively cultivate and maintain their plot during the entire growing season. Gardeners are also obligated to perform community duties, such as weeding pathways and other common areas of the parcels, maintaining the compost pile, administering LCG or organizing or working at social or community events. LCG also maintains a waitlist of eligible residents who would like a plot, and who have signed a contract and paid a nonrefundable fee of $5. LCG maintains a compost pile and provides gardeners with tools and supplies.
Contracts may be cancelled and a gardener’s plot forfeited if a gardener fails to adhere to the terms of the contract after written notice. If a plot is forfeited, or if a gardener elects not to renew his or her plot, or fails to return their contract or dues by a certain deadline, LCG will assign that plot to the next person at the top of LCG’s waitlist. Gardeners vary greatly in age (from young adults to retirees) and ability (from never having gardened, to professional landscape designers). While membership is limited to the BPC community, the gardens are always open for everyone to look at and enjoy.
LCG’s primary source of funds is dues of $20 per plot per year. Dues are used to fund the operation of the gardens, including providing tools, equipment, storage, etc.
LCG is managed by an Executive Committee of its gardening members. LCG is grateful to the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy for its ongoing support including: donating surplus plants and gardening supplies, making meeting space available to LCG, offering horticultural advice, maintaining potable water supplies, removing rubbish and plant debris, and trimming trees and bushes in and around the gardens. Excess plant debris is added to the BPCPC composting program that fertilizing planting all over BPC.
If you are interested in adding your name to the waiting list for a plot, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org