Trouble is brewing again in the Evergreen Community Garden.
For decades, the Flushing garden within Kissena Corridor Park was managed by a group associated with the Korean-American Senior Citizens Society of Greater New York.
Amid accusations of fiscal mismanagement, the Parks Department and its GreenThumb initiative relieved the Korean seniors of their duties and appointed a new committee to oversee the garden’s operations in March 2012. Later that summer, one of the Korean gardeners, who had previously managed the space, then took up a hunger strike in protest and later threatened to set himself on fire in the garden in an attempt to regain control, according to police.
Tension over who manages the garden has also erupted into endless squabbles and even violent fights between gardeners.
A group of Korean gardeners associated with KASCS is now claiming the new committee has not been transparent enough about how it has spent registration dues.
More than 20 protesters held a demonstration outside the 5-acre community garden on Colden Street Saturday to call for a public audit of the garden’s expenditures.
“We’ve been asking for transparency for more than two years,” gardener Won Lee said through a translator. “Let us know where the money will be spent.”
The new management, led by Roland Wade, has also set about kicking some gardeners off of excess plots if they have more than one per family and reducing oversized patches to try to accommodate those on their waiting list, angering the Korean gardeners who have tilled the garden’s soil since it opened in the early 1980’s. The new committee has charged $80 per plot and more for larger plots at a pro-rated price.
“A lot of these people have more than one plot or have one that’s going to be reduced in size and they don’t like that,” Wade said, referring to the protestors. “Many of them think this is for one ethnic group, but it’s a community garden under the auspices of Parks and its mandated to be open to people of every ethnicity.”
Committee members handed out financial statements for 2013 and 2014 at the protest and said all their expenses have been cleared by the Parks Department.
James Trikas, the committee’s treasurer, said he did not feel obliged to release detailed financial records to the garden’s members.
“I just need to justify what is spent to the committee and the Parks Department,” he said. “If you’re the member of a gym, are you entitled to every detail of every detail? I don’t think so.”
The Parks Department refused to answer questions about the community garden, including whether the agency had approved the committee’s expenses and why it had appointed new management in 2012. But it issued a statement concerning GreenThumb’s relationship with the garden, which has roughly 280 plots.
“Garden fees are permitted to be charged by garden groups per their license agreements with GreenThumb,” a Parks spokeswoman said in an e-mail. “Fees are never charged by GreenThumb and GreenThumb has not discussed any sort of maintenance fee agreement with the gardeners at Evergreen Community Garden. All members of the garden are expected to be in compliance with the garden’s by-laws.”
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobi
©2014 Community News Group
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not TimesLedger.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to TimesLedger.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.