Debate over the future of Ithaca's Community Gardens has had developers, gardeners and the community at odds for more than a year. Now, Tamara Lindstrom tells us about a new lease just put in place that will allow the gardeners to keep their plots for at least a little longer.
ITHACA, N.Y. -- The two acres of blooming gardens near Cayuga Lake in downtown Ithaca have been a source of local pride for three decades. And this week, Mayor Svante Myrick signed a new lease, allowing the Community Gardens to stay put, at least for now. The lease is for 20 years, but can be terminated by the city at any time.
"The council felt that is was useful subsidizing this very useful community purpose, at least to some degree. Now the city can terminate that lease, but only if and when there's another purpose for that land. Right now, we feel that that's the best purpose we have at hand," Myrick said.
But this agreement was hard fought, coming after more than a year of intensely debated negotiations between the city, the gardeners and developers who wanted to purchase the property.
Myrick said, "It was a complicated issue because they are located in Carpenter Business Park and that was never intended to be their permanent home. But what the council decided, and what I agree, is that until we know for sure where the gardens will grow, and until we know for sure what will replace the gardens in that business park, we want to make sure that they have a home in the meantime."
The developers interested in the land own the adjacent eight acres and said if they can't buy the gardens, they will likely sell their plot to another developer that would build a strip mall or big box store.
"I don't respond well, this is a city that doesn't respond well to threats, veiled or otherwise. So if you come to us with a productive solution, we'll work with you towards that solution. And so far, we just haven't seen that alternative from the developer," Myrick said.
Myrick said his administration won't end the lease without finding a new home for the gardens. He said they will get at least a year's notice before being forced to move.
A representative of Ithaca's Community Gardens responded that they are happy an agreement was reached, writing, "Almost 150 households rely on these garden plots to supplement their food budgets as well as produce healthy food for their families. They are all relieved that the lease has been renewed and the gardens are safe for the foreseeable future. We greatly appreciate the Ithaca Common Council, Mayor Myrick and the many community residents who supported the Community Gardens throughout this process."