Sign this petition to have a garden outside City Hall in NYC!

February 19, 2010, 10:30 AM
Plans for Real Growth at City Hall By KIM SEVERSON, NYTimes

A garden on the White House lawn is one thing, but organic vegetables growing outside New York’s City Hall? That could be a much tougher sell.

Still, the people behind a new effort are undaunted.

“The hope is that a vegetable garden can be planted in front of City Hall in time for a nice tomato harvest this summer,” said Daniel Bowman Simon, who is organizing a petition drive to hand over to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

The petition says: “This garden will represent New Yorkers’ commitment to education, public service, healthy eating, and environmental stewardship. This garden will be tended by NYC public school students, in collaboration with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation and our region’s talented gardeners and farmers. The harvest will be donated to a nearby food pantry to feed the hungry.”

It might seem that Mr. Simon is just another sustainable food fan with a dream, but he has a track record. Almost as soon as Barack Obama was elected president, Mr. Simon began a petition to have an organic garden planted on the White House lawn. About 15,000 people signed it, including several well-known chefs.

Of course, the first lady planted a garden for lots of reasons, but the petition probably didn’t hurt the cause. And now Mr. Simon, a graduate of New York University who is working on a masters in urban planning, believes he can lead a similar effort in his hometown.

“New York City likes to be ahead of the curve, but following the first lady’s good example would suit New York just fine,” he said. And he says he thinks it fits in nicely with Mrs. Obama’s recent anti-obesity campaign called Let’s Move.

Several other cities, including Baltimore; Milwaukee; and Portland, Ore., have put various kinds of vegetables gardens in front of their city halls. In New York, the idea is to plant raised beds in the paved area right in front of City Hall that is kept empty largely for security purposes. The area is between the City Council parking lot and the western steps of City Hall.

“We’re just asking that a tiny little slice of concrete be turned into a bountiful, beautiful symbol of what is right in this city and the world,” Mr. Simon said.

The timing might actually be good, in terms of political support.

The Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, just released “FoodNYC: A Blueprint for a Sustainable Food System.” The report, developed from a gathering of experts in agriculture, nutrition and environmental sciences held in December, was put together with the help of the nonprofit organization Just Food.

It lists a wide range of goals, from reducing plastic bottles and food waste to mandating a food curriculum for public schoolchildren and offering meatless Mondays in school cafeterias.

The document also makes a case for improving local food systems and supporting urban agriculture. And what could be more local and more urban than a garden at New York City Hall?

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