to Tend a Garden in New York
New York City officials have long been plotting the sale of community
gardens to housing developers. Appreciating the few stretches of green
in our city of concrete and steel is easy for anyone whos visited;
saving them is something else. Fortunately, garden defenders have proven
a creative lot and have successfully frustrated Mayor Rudy Guilianis
plan to sell off every last vestige of public space. Yet what's happening
in New York is going on across the nationmunicipalities are selling
off public space to private interests. Inspired by the garden troops,
Stay Free! has compiled a list of their tactics for folks to try in their
DISRUPT FILM SHOOTS
Guiliani understands how important it is for Hollywood to use
public space, so dont try walking down 5th Street during the "rain
sequence." Instead, drive home the value of public space. Win the
administrations attention by getting that of the filmmakers: chuck
eggs filled with glitter onto the set, which disturbs lighting. Offer
disgruntled local dwellers sheets of mylara reflective material
available at any crafts storeto put in their windows. Afterward
send the poor crew some chocolate chip cookies; its not their fault
city officials suck!
Take the day off! At 8 a.m., block State Street, the road on
which the New York Partnership (for Garden Killing) is located, by handcuffing
humans across it. Unhandcuffed others should hand out flyers. Smile and
comb your hair. People are watching.
Find some kids, gather outside a developers home with
beach toys, kiddie pool, balloons, noisemakers, and let the fun begin.
When passersby inquire, tell them that without gardens, the kiddies have
to play on the sidewalk.
Attend public auctions where gardens are to be sold. Encourage
family and friends to make false bids, drive prices up up up until you
WIN! When its time to pay, search desperately for your wallet. Offer
to run home and check. Speak slowly. Stall. (Warning: highly illegal.)
Then graciously offer your wrists because you, friend, have won a night
Another option: purchase 10,000 live crickets off the internet, stuff
in large envelopes (cut a hole and cover it with mesh to allow air in),
then place each in a briefcase. Comradesdressed stylishly and businesslikeshould
disperse throughout room. At the signal, release insects and watch the
fun. Cricket-launchers will spend a night in jail, so make sure undercover
pals are on hand to videotape the show . . . and to hand-deliver dubs
to local television network affiliates [the aforementioned scene, thanks
to help from Dyke TV, made it on all three major networks]. Inform animal
rights extremists that the crickets typically met their fate in an instant,
painless manner while helping New York cops exercise aggression through
vigorous (and comedic) stomping.
a sunflower costume, climb up a gingko tree in City Hall Park, and promise
not to come down until Giuliani decides to meet with you or, more likely,
you get arrested. Or: Gather 30 or more people who, in the words of Rudy
Guiliani, are stuck "in the era of communism." All sit down
in City Hall lobby.
the gardens to the public; encourage people to spend time with them. Extend
garden hours; enroll more members (usually only $10 a year with four hours
of volunteer work); provide keys to more members. Hold parties and bake
sales in the gardens.
FAX AND PHONE JAMS
Set that puppy on looponly to one number, that of the city council.
Tie up their fax for days. You may be able to send as many as 400 from
one machine before they knock on your door to cart you away. To avoid
arrest, dont fax the same thing over and overfax different
long missives, in large type. Also, limit the number of faxes from any
one number; inform others to fax on behalf of the gardens (appropriate
or poignant wording not necessary; old newspaper articles and recipes
works just fine).
Phone: Same idea. Call City Council Speaker Peter Vallones
office on specified days and keep the receptionist on the phone at all
costs. Talk slowly, accidentally drop phone, mumble, adopt an important-sounding
manner. Perhaps nows the time to practice that second foreign language.
Or to ask vaguely civic-related questions you might have wondered about.
Send harried secretaries flowers the next week.
Housing Preservation and Development, an agency that argues that affordable
housing requires sacrificing community gardens. Place a classified ad
in the local weekly offering low-cost housing with the HPDs phone
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, BRIND
ON BETTE MIDLER
Really. This woman has helped provide funding for dozens of
gardens slated for sale. Activism, thoughnot moneyhas saved