The Land Back

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The Land Back

Late Spring Luncheon Edition at the Arsenal June 11th, 2021

Haiku for land liberation from Bronx Comrades: Fuck bitch ass green thumb Goofy ass nyrp Parks department too

Pedagogy of Green Space: Community Control towards Land Back and an Abolition of Property “Under capitalism, Mother Earth is converted into a source of raw materials, and human beings into consumers and a means of production, into people that are seen as valuable only for what they own, and not for what they are. Capitalism requires a powerful military industry for its processes of accumulation and imposition of control over territories and natural resources, suppressing the resistance of the peoples. It is an imperialist system of colonization of the planet. Humanity confronts a great dilemma: to continue on the path of capitalism, depredation, and death, or to choose the path of harmony with nature and respect for life.” People’s Agreement of Cochabamba “The Issue of property sits at the centre of Black people’s relationship with policing both past and present,...an abolitionist future is not possible without the abolition of police. And it is my contention that this is not possible without the abolition of property.” Rinaldo Walcott Preamble:

WE ARE GUERILLAS OF RADICAL OPTIMISM and write this from within the mar-

gins of New York City. From within the center of the international empire. The fifth world. From within sites of repression and sometimes isolation, where the sky at times is our only connection to the planet and


universe. We write this understanding that living in hard concrete and cold steel has become comforting to many Black and Brown people living in cities. Where gunshots, sirens, and traffic are sounds we have grown accustomed to as they gradually melt our nerves. It is how we grow up in cities. And we can no longer live numb. The woods, with their legacy of lynch mobs and now, as real estate gems displacing us, do not seem like spaces of healing, but of grief. Synthetic digital worlds are severing our interpersonal and inter-natural experiences. WE live disconnected from anything green. Long work hours keep poor workers from their families, community and rest. Rents rise. Debt follows. Keeping up with the cost of living prevents us from creating time to think, dream, and reimagine our lives and purpose. Parkland and gardens established as a “public good” feed off of displacement. Green spaces in affluent neighborhoods, national parks and beaches--all of which were central to the project of “greenwashing” colonization and land theft--become prizes for those with privilege maintaining the system. Living next to a park becomes a reward for participating in the displacement, confinement and repression of the poor. The funding of park alliances keep stolen land in the hands of the affluent for their lucrative networking and business deals. The funding enables rules, which bring policing and surveillance of Black and Brown people in order to keep them out. Multinational-corporations, allegiances and governments have become more repressive and brutal. They thrive on racist laws and anticipated violence. “Keeping people safe” means surveillance, becoming more extreme and under-detected everyday. The police and military have become the biggest threats to the climate as their only aim is to protect the property and investments of the rich. The police come in many forms. From the DOE, MTA, DOT and NYPDR to museums and BIDs. They instill rules, hurdles, and guidelines of proper behavior. It is a slow war. The wealth extracted from the global south is funnelled through the Wall Street stock exchange while our relatives abroad are robbed of their territories, invaded, and left in drought. They train us in school to believe in the system of consumption and to die for it. And all the ”rewards” that come from it have a reaction: the cost of lives deemed less valuable anywhere around the world. We get our power back by understanding that we are innately and integrally connected to the earth. We get our power back understanding that we exist to preserve the earth, keep it in balance as we keep ourselves in balance. Our resistances are a fight for land liberation- People’s right to community control, towards land back and the abolition of property. A Pedagogy of Green Space is a living archive for community control towards the principle of Land Back. It is a psychic blow that opens up the possibility of liberation. There is no “ownership” of stolen land - this is unceded Lenni-Lenape territory. As temporary caretakers of the spaces we are stewarding, we recognize the rightful laws of the people of this land. We will not abide by the laws of the settler state or their nonprofits. A Pedagogy of Green Space is land-led; the land’s need to shape our work together. The fight for community control necessitates that we love the land, and love each other, differently -- for a long-term fight that we cannot win without each other. We fight to end property driven economies. We fight for Black liberation and an end to police terrorizing Black people. To continue to keep the pressure on and uncover injustice. To erase the idea that justice looks like consumption and public-private partnerships. To strike out the lie that the neoliberal imperial state will save us. We steward to return the land. We steward to live autonomously. We steward to close prisons and end the carceral state. We steward because it is our moral duty to defend the oppressed against the oppressors. We steward against confinement and disconnection. We steward to stop the murder of QTBIPOC folk. We steward to abolish rent and landlords and ensure everyone a dignified place to live. We steward for strong and free public education. We steward to abolish debt. We steward the land to abolish borders and end


detention centers. We steward to end occupations everywhere. We steward for clean water. We steward to rest. We steward for life. ####

This liberation work

begins on the local level. A growing coalition of garden and park organizers across the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens are coming together to fight lockouts, uneven distribution of services and make green spaces truly for the people. The coalition is united around demands that include unlocking all gardens and park spaces; police out of parks/gardens; ending parks relationships with developers; removing names/symbols associated with white racist historical figures; saving NYCHA and fighting for tenant control of green space; supporting grassroots organizations; stopping the exploitation of incarcerated workers to maintain parks; and paying parks workers a living wage. The work of these garden/parks spaces asks us to imagine and build a world where Parks, the DOT, the DOE, Green Thumb, the MTA, NYCHA, and the mayor do not have jurisdiction over tens of thousands of acres of city land, but instead, communities do. These are stories written by only a few of the hundreds of caretakers in New York City. From their experiences we learn and build. With their stories we reflect, asking questions as we do the work. Roots Unbound w]szx Rikers Island gjkf

We, three, came to be out of working side by side with folks who were incarcerated on Rikers

Island. We had the honor of being garden collaborators to support green spaces of refuge for those who have been taken from their loved ones and communities. However, the respect and care co-created within the garden was always overshadowed and surveilled by the jail. When the gardeners, builders, and creatives were escorted back to their dorms, the vibrant technicolor of garden life was seemingly undone. The experiences in the gardens live only as pockets of joy, but they are still joy. Building rituals of seed selection for the upcoming season of growing filled the absence of autonomy during incarceration. Gardeners at every level felt excitement from watching their seeds flourish and provide food for themselves and the group. Yet, stepping outside of the garden with one’s personal harvest of fresh herbs was criminalized as contraband. To criminalize something that brings joy is to criminalize joy itself. We left this program. We are a burgeoning group, not yet with our garden home and still look to support community members who are experiencing incarceration, as well as offer support to their families by way of the inherent healing properties of collaborating with nature, observing nature, and being in pace with nature. We stand with the return to the Land. Those who understand the quiet reciprocal relationship between the Land and the steward are the ones with the real power. Land is sacred and oppressively gatekept. The staged obstacles, protocols, and red tape intentionally keep us separated from that return and intercepts the abundance that the Land would freely give, with that promise of reciprocity. We grieve with Indigenous nations who have had their Land stolen, and also we grieve the loss of access to Land in the name of healing and supporting communities and its people. South Bronx Mutual Aid w]szx Mott Haven, the Bronx Mutual Aid and a Pedagogy of Green Space gjkf

Mutual aid is a solidarity model proven over thousands of years. It recognizes that we are all human beings with bodies deserving of clean air and nourishment, and that we all deserve to survive. Mutual aid posits that we must come together and treat each other as family, and that when we share our skills with the collective, we’re better able to lean on each other to survive and flourish.


This solidarity model stands in contrast to a charity model that relies on hierarchical systems and structures, levels removed from community, to deem who is “deserving” of accessing resources, funding, and spaces, including green spaces, thus tying the hands of communities that could otherwise make transformative and enduring initiatives come to life. While nonprofits have office hours, mutual aid groups meet flexibly and engage those excluded from nonprofit and governmental outreach, regardless of documentation status. Ultimately, charity mindset prioritizes the feelings and worldview of the person or entity with privilege, titles, and resources while mutual aid, the act of being and working in community, centers the happiness and betterment of the community itself through the community’s own limitless actions and imagination. South Bronx Mutual Aid recognizes that the Bronx is a place where residents have faced environmental racism for generations, are excluded from the economy in building intergenerational wealth, and experience a level of food apartheid surpassing other boroughs. Through that we recognize the twin problems of capitalism and colonialism. An economy where employers direct employees to public assistance to make ends meet is an economy that creates food insecurity. An economy that mandates payment of rent, health care, child care, bills, and debts but does not mandate on itself people’s access to food is an economy that dehumanizes humans. Capitalism produces an enormous amount of surplus that is hoarded or destroyed, but even if we could rescue this surplus we can’t depend forever on the existence of a wasteful system. We need to think about what it means for all people to have both land and time, because in order to grow your own crops you need land but you also need time to be able to grow those crops. Colonialism today looks like our government allowing oil and gas pipelines to poison what land remains to today’s indigenous people as we continue to occupy their ancestral land. It looks like locked community gardens on a beautiful spring day in Mott Haven or Kingsbridge. After 400 years of slavery, Jim Crow, and now mass incarceration and unafforable higher education, we recognize that we are living in a caste system that creates struggle for the human beings existing within its lowest tiers, with little natural respite. To breathe in the South Bronx is to breathe through a straw in “Asthma Alley.” For our ability to breathe clean air, manage our mental health, cultivate nourishing produce, and for our enduring survival: we must undo the colonization of our green spaces. Access to community-entrusted land is the right of all humans. On the Circle w]szx Inwood, Manhattan gjkf

The Lenape people are the original people of the place we now call Inwood and Inwood Hill

Park (Shorakapkok, The Good Sitting Place By the Water, which implies “the place of peace”) since time immemorial. They considered the forests in this area to be sacred places. In keeping with this history, 11 years ago, I, a Taíno (the people who first encountered Columbus, from the Dominican Republic, originally Bohío) was called to build by hand, out of natural materials (such as fallen tree logs, stones, etc.) found in my walks in the forest, a small prayer tepee, a small Taino medicine wheel, and a ceremonial ancestral Sacred Hoop (Batey in Taino), The Circle, in a spot that had first been cleared by a storm at the Clove within Inwood Hill Park. The Sacred Hoop is the symbol of Mother Earth and the living world in balance with no beginning and no end. It is round like the Moon, the Sun, and the Earth, and it contains the seven directions. It is a symbol of peaceful coexistence among all living beings. As an Indigenous woman, I have done what Indigenous women have done, and still do, throughout this continent for thousands of years— build a sacred circle in honor of the ancestors, Creator, and Mother Earth, in harmony with her and her children. A place of solace, peace, and prayer, where all are welcomed because no matter what religion we practice, no matter what pigment our skin shows, how old or young we are, or what our access to money may be, in the Sacred Hoop we are all the natural children of Mother Earth. Out of respect for the Lenape people and their ancestors as well as my own Taino ancestors, I built a good sitting place, a place of peace, where anyone can reflect, gather themselves in nature, and find peace. I have religiously maintained the Circle for 11 years as its caretaker. To my great joy, for many others who also walk and love the forest, the Circle had also been a place of peace and quiet away from the din of


the city, a place to pray and commune with the birds, squirrels, and other animals that call this sacred circle home. Visitors young and old of all backgrounds and religious beliefs have stopped to admire the sacred Circle, to meditate in its peaceful surroundings, to pray, to cry, to rejoice while joyfully watching the animals and listening to nature’s music—the bird song, the wind in the trees, the path of the sun and the moon, the insects’ background notes…. The Circle never needed a sign or a bell to mark its sacredness, since the sense of a sacred place is natural, obvious, and profound. The Circle was also a favorite spot of Young Jee, my teacher and mentor. He was a Korean land artist who built ephemeral circles all over the forest, activating our hearts before he passed away in 2012. For years, we used to walk the forest together daily, and I learned much from his magical spirit. It is also in his honor and memory that I maintain The Circle. Unfortunately, the beautiful history of the Circle came to an abrupt end this April 29, 2021 when the NYC Parks Department destroyed it. This final violent act was the culmination of several months of harassment, violence, and displacement. It all began last summer, when in July 2020, one disgruntled white man called 311 about the Circle, the call was sent to the NYC Parks Dept., and Director Jennifer Hoppa gave the first order to her workers to attack the Circle. I found the prayer tepee on the ground for the first time in 11 years on July 4, 2020. Then, again on January 6, 2021. On January 19, 2021, to my horror, I found NYC Parks Dept. workers driving a truck through the site. It was that day that the workers explained to me that the driving force behind Ms. Hoppa’s continual orders to destroy the site was the 311 call. Despite the fact that I gathered almost 1,000 people’s signatures in the neighborhood and invited Ms. Hoppa to join my Taino elder and me in a restorative justice circle at the site, so she could experience for herself the healing power of this sacred space. She ordered park workers to erect a fence in front of the Circle. Despite the pain and shock her actions caused, the irony was not lost on me that the NYC Parks Department would erect a metal fence with plastic signs that read, “Please do not erect structures. They are in violation of Park rules and are hurting the forest.” Ultimately, no matter how much the community showed the NYC Parks Dept how much we all loved and needed the Circle, which they had allowed to exist undisturbed for 11 years, Ms. Hoppa ultimately sent her workers to completely destroy it on April 29, 2021. On May 1, International Workers’ Day, she saw young trees in the center of the Clove where the Circle used to be. An action that clearly was a misguided attempt at covering up the systemic violence she had spearheaded against an Indigenous Dominican woman and the sacred site she had worked on for 11 years.

From a critical perspective, it is clear that the NYC Parks Department has overstepped and abused their city agency power. Ultimately, my Indigenous direct relationship with nature is deemed as “destructive” to the forest while the NYC Parks Department is driving trucks through sacred sites, disturbing the soil and the animals of the forest considered “the proper use of public land.” Now, every time I go to where the Circle used to be, I feel like I’m back in 1492 and my village was just raided. As an Indigenous woman I had gone into the forest to find a healing refuge from the system, but the system came to my sacred healing space and destroyed it. Colonization is an ongoing process. Policing our natural birthright to a direct relationship with nature is just one of its many forms. 34th Avenue Open Street Sorrow w]szx Jackson Heights, Queens gjkf

residents in Jackson Heights, Queens found respite in the newly designated 34th Avenue Open Street. An official DOT project which closed the tree-lined avenue to cars and opened it for In 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,

pedestrians. When city officials told us to “stay home,” I joined my neighbors in walks along 34th Avenue. I quickly found the median between 79th and 80th streets with lots of weeds, and sickly trees. In the early Spring, I contacted my local city officials and even called 311 to request stewardship of the


median. No one responded to my emails or messages. Since I already had seeds in my possession I decided to plant yellow sunflowers, Mexican sunflowers, ground cherry, squash (which was grown from from seed saved by a neighbor who brought them from their home country) and purple corn (which originated from a Hopi farmer who distributed seed at the Indigenous Peoples Day celebration in 2018). After a few weeks, two Mexican immigrants offered to plant Mexican marigold and Celosia, flowers for Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead. Mexican marigolds were not pulled and had beautiful, big orange flowers that were harvested just in time for the Day of the Dead holiday. We added beans late in the season to complete the Three Sisters planting and honoring the traditional custodians of this land. On July 23, 2020, all the yellow sunflowers and all purple corn were pulled. I am a retired person, so I had time to make numerous emails and phone conversations with various people at the Parks Department about the “impromptu or improvised or pop-up garden”. After not getting any answers, I replanted the sunflowers and corn. Apparently, uniformed Parks officials came and pulled this garden out when, “one person kept calling 311 complaining”. Then on September 16, 2020, all yellow sunflowers, squash, purple corn, ground cherry were pulled again! For the following reasons, I believe the Parks department is acting in bad faith: - The incompetence of a city manager who chose to placate one resident who called 311 to complain that the corn, sunflowers, squash and tomatoes will attract rodents. -Discrimination against me as other gardeners did not have their sunflowers, tomatoes or squash pulled. I mention this to amplify the Park’s inconsistency not to begrudge my plant-loving neighbors. - Improper type of soil used in the median. Parks used soil full of cement debris, rocks, wood chips, thrash and some human hair. This seems to be the way Parks operates and one cause for so many of our beloved City Parks having toxic loads of lead and other heavy metals in their soils. After they removed the plantings, I spoke to numerous Parks officials. I was told that I should only plant things that are included on their official Recommended List of Plants. If that was the case, Parks again discriminately implemented this rule. I believe that it is time to revisit this list and add edible crops, fruit trees and bushes. With the pandemic there is a growing need and desire to grow urban gardens, not only for aesthetics, but also for sustenance. The luxury city promised by previous mayors insists on displacement through progress. But it seems that the Parks Department is now policing public spaces to ensure that we cannot grow the food or herbs which support community health and healing. As the health crisis of the pandemic has exacerbated the existing ecological crisis and plunged us into an economic emergency the city is operating on a reduced budget. It should focus on allowing residents to create the solutions we need with our shared resources. Instead, the Parks Department has chosen to use its slim budget to enforce regressive policies that demoralize and leave us destitute. An Anonymous Park Enthusiast w]szx Bed Sty, Brooklyn gjkf

The NYC Parks department operates as an extension of the police state, seeing our houseless and homeless community members as disruptions to a “pleasant park experience” instead of community members in need.

The NYC Parks department in collaboration with City government systemically views parks and public space in working-class and poor Black and Brown communities as unworthy of updates and appropriate


facilities. Only worthy of updates when the overall hue of a community lightens, only worthy of updates when white folks ask for them. The NYC Parks department views their operations and management staff as ancillary and compensate them WELL below the actual CITYWIDE value of their labor and care. No coincidence they are predominantly Black and Brown folks working-class long-term New York City residents. The NYC Parks department is most responsive to the needs and desires of wealthy and gentrifying white residents. Once again, the NYC Parks department LOVESSSS the NYPD. The NYC Parks department cannot find space in their budget to RECYCLE but has all the funds to create new parks and have updates in wealthy communities. And has no problems making connections with wealthy communities, but does not put the same emphasis and resources toward building relationships with the working-class, working-poor and poor people of NYC. The NYC Parks department is seen as the benevolent arm of a white supremacist settler colonial state, having access to over 33,000 acres of park land in NYC but not allowing people to grow food on it. While our people starve. They are the prime example of neoliberalism, superficially ticking many of the oppressed identity boxes amongst their administration without EVER considering the role of class as central to understanding and addressing power in decision making. The NYC Parks department allows children in hoods around the city to run and play in parks that don’t even have adequate lighting. The NYC Parks department does not see displacement as an issue to centralize while also being quick to try to remove houseless encampments and communities as quickly as possible. The NYC Parks Department sees land as a commodity, not a relationship. From Woodside Sunnyside Composting / Rusty Wheelbarrow Farm w]szx Sunnyside, Queens gjkf As the pandemic turned global, a group of volunteers called Woodside Sunnyside Composting, hosted

started to think of creating ways to answer the needs of our neighbors. Just a block away from the composting site lay a vacant Parkby the Sunnyside Community Garden,

owned lot. According to residents, the lot had been unused since at least the 1980s. After starting a petition in May 2020, we attempted to get in touch with the Parks Department about using the land to build a temporary pantry farm. We also got in touch with Green Thumb who assured us that summer that our plan was very much something that Green Thumb supported. We also sought and obtained support from our councilperson. As the summer went by, we attempted multiple times to get in touch with the Parks Department, who did not give real consideration to our plan. During the summer we also collected aggregate samples of the soil in the lot. Testing for heavy metals showed they are below NYDEP’s safety limits. As the fall arrived, we decided to clean up the outside rim of the land, which was full of branches and garbage, an ideal habitat for rats. After cleaning up the space, we started to build raised beds planted with food crops destined to be harvested and distributed to the community through the Sunnyside and Woodside Mutual Aid. We chose to build raised beds - even though our independent soil test showed no heavy metal contamination - as a secondary precaution to reduce the risk of non-tested contaminants, and mulched the ground with a layer of mulch to isolate the native soil. The raised beds were filled with compost produced by the group


out of food-waste collected from the countless neighbors who wanted to continue to put their food scraps to a good use in the absence of the “brown bin program,” the NYC pilot food waste collection program what was available in this part of Queens until the pandemic budget cuts. With the exception of two individuals, all people passing by were very thankful for our actions. Neighboring businesses allowed us to use their electricity to hasten the cleanup. In October after a first harvest of about 15 lbs of greens, the Parks Department came and ripped our raised beds out of the ground together with the plants. Working with our Councilperson, we were able to recover some of the plants and some of the raised beds, at our own cost, which we subsequently decided to reinstall and replant. A few weeks later, the Parks Department again removed the raised beds and crops that would have fed our hungry neighbors. The Parks Department also spent what was likely thousands of dollars to raise a secondary fence. Those thousands of dollars could have been used to help us build more efficiently the pantry farm, for example, or could have provided meals to our neighbors in need. Parks never engaged in a healthy dialog and distributed misinformation to the signatories of our petition. Among Parks Department’s lies, Commissioner Mitchell cited soil contamination with heavy metals, however as mentioned earlier, we have soil tests showing levels below the NYDEP guidelines. Further, by building raised beds and mulching the native soil, we are/were following common urban gardening contaminant mitigation guidelines distributed by the city itself. After hearing of the lies spread by Parks, we demanded to receive copies of the soil tests, but as before, the Parks Department refused to engage in a healthy dialog. Our petition received about 1000 signatures, most of which are coming from zip codes within 3 miles of the unused lot. To this day, the park is accumulating garbage again... FreeCUNY w]szx City University of New York Land and Food at CUNY gjkf The 2019 CUNY Food Insecurity Report indicated that

1 in 5 CUNY students struggles

with food insecurity. However, CUNY has worked to actively delegitimize student-led food and

land justice efforts. This included Hunter College’s decision installation of a Starbucks, with years of rent abatement, in a student-led space that was a potential site for a campus food pantry, and the fight to maintain Kingsborough Community College Urban Farm, which supplied thousands of pounds of produce to the community to address the impact of COVID-19. At the same time, CUNY spends over $65 million on cops and policing. An abolitionist perspective is part of a Pedagogy of Green Space: this money should be community-controlled and it should be funding free and healthy food, health care, housing, child care, liberatory education, and equitable wages for all CUNY workers. Big ReUse w]szx Gowanus, Brooklyn Towards a Parks Supported Community Compost gjkf

The City is dismantling the grassroots led community composting program. Over the past decade, NYC has incorporated effective grassroots composting initiatives into

its agency work. While investment in community composting programs promised growth and longevity, it also ensured politicization of the issue. Bureaucratic red tape, regressive fiduciary management, and petty internal politics all of which are now undermining the work that grassroots orgs have done to create these programs to begin with.


To be clear, community composting is done by community gardeners and the NYC Compost Project. This project started in the mid 90s and was a purely educational oriented program, implementing the Master Composter course in all five boroughs. In the late 2000s grassroots organizations basically shamed the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) into actually collecting food scraps and processing them locally. Instead of starting their own program, they gobbled up the grassroots initiatives. While initial investment allowed the programs to grow into legit city services, the areas served were limited. In the early 2010s, NYC piloted its industrial solution, DSNYs Brown Bin curbside pickup. The pilot focused on single family home neighborhoods and expanded slowly to townhomes and small multifamily building communities, a financial consideration that had obvious classist and environmentally racist implications. By the end of 2019 the Brown Bin program was shown to be an abject failure, hugely expensive with only 2-3% organic diversion rates in the neighborhoods it served. A lack of education and communication around the program confused residents, while unionized sanitation workers actively undercut the program. A huge investment with little return. Then, the COVID-19 crisis struck and the budget for both the Brown Bin and the NYC Compost Project were slashed completely. With little money to work with and swelling public outcry for the return of composting, the City Council determined that community composting was the only financially feasible solution. Reverting back to the volunteer focused program that grassroots groups initially built the programs with, the city is once again privileging those communities with the time and energy to volunteer to help their neighbors divert kitchen scraps from landfill while less affluent communities remain unserved. The shoestring budget only funded four of the previous seven community composting sites to return to operations and these four sites are already at capacity. Now, the Parks Department, who manages the land that two of these local composting sites are operating on, has fabricated a series of fallacious arguments to evict these to compost yards. Nonsense legal arguments are refuted only to be replaced with even more egregious arguments. The current language being used to evict a compost site under the Queensbridge in LIC has been refuted by the NY Lawyers for Public Interest, the National Resource Defense Council and the NYC BAR Environmental law Committee, yet the Parks Department will not reconsider or even reply to the site operators even as the June 30 eviction date draws near. Where grassroots community orgs worked hard to maintain local partnerships and broad community support, the City agencies have stepped in with myopic budgetary ideas, refusal to cooperate across agencies, ignored local council members and community boards only to undo all the work that local residents poured into these programs which made community composting possible to begin with. To add insult to injury during this international pandemic, global environmental emergency and resulting economic crisis, the Parks Department refuses to allow resident or other city agencies to utilize our land which they are entrusted to manage, for the most basic environmental activity that would fully support the abundance of lawns, trees and planting areas throughout the City. Wealthy Friends of, and Parks Conservancy groups are valorized for stockpiling leaves to make leaf mold. Meanwhile, groups producing larger volumes of a higher quality product (made with local food scraps and leaves) bring more natural value, but not more money, are being kicked out. The carbon cycle supports carbon-based life when we re-carbonize the soil, but can bring death when we put it into the air and the oceans. The shortsightedness of Parks, projecting potential legal liability above actual emergency level work, must stop now. The mayor must mandate composting for all city agencies, all commercial businesses and all residents. In doing so the City must provide the services and processing capacity necessary to do this important work. Focusing on community level composting is the best way to avoid the environmental racism currently embedded in the program. This must include decent pay and


working conditions for compost workers and access to our resources, foremost the land. Marble Hill Houses, NYCHA w]szx Marble Hill, The Bronx gjkf

Blueprint for Change: Transition Plan aims to privatize scores of public housing residences, which will permanently eliminate thousands of affordable housing units in NYC and “New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) CEO Greg Russ’s plan known as

put 100,000s of working class BIPOC at risk of homelessness. Greg Russ’s track record of dismantling public housing began in Detroit in 1995 and a wake of destruction followed him from there to Chicago, to Cambridge, and to Minneapolis. And now, as the head of the NYCHA he plans to be even more destructive as NYCHA is the largest public housing authority in the country by a large margin.” The most important thing for people to know is that NYCHA residents will lose Section 9-Public Housing protections moving residents to Section 8-Subsidized Housing . The Blueprint would transfer our homes to Section 8 and to a “public” trust so that our homes may operate as collateral in debt agreements with private actors who see this relationship as an investment opportunity and expect financial returns. This privatizes our homes, putting profits over the needs of residents. We understand that the repair and management responsibilities of the properties are then contracted back to NYCHA, who has been a negligent landlord, while removing the federal protections and oversight provided by the federal monitor and the Lead and Mold Ombudsperson. Under the Blueprint, tenants would lose the federally-enforceable rights and protections currently pervaded through Section 964 (TENANT PARTICIPATION AND TENANT OPPORTUNITIES IN PUBLIC HOUSING) such as: The Resident Council, Resident Management Corporation, Technical Assistance, Eviction & Grievance Oversight. Section 8 would remove the resident council, the right for tenants to organize and create a public trust so that our homes may operate as collateral in debt agreements. The debts would be made up of any expenses like repairs, mold removal, painting, replacing boilers, upgrades for appliances- which NYCHA greatly needs. Most residents in NYCHA are poor and working class affected by COVID unemployment and related deaths. Protecting NYCHA is important because as we all know living in NYC is very expensive. It is becoming more expensive because of gentrification and new developments. When the mayor talks about affordable housing he talks about mixed groups living in one location. These people earn above the median income of real poor residents of NYC. The average income in my building is $24,000! No apartments in the mayor’s mixed housing provide for a family that earns this. We need to keep public housing public. Some apartments have already been privatized within NYCHA. Green space is being sold to private developers or given to not-for-profits to manage under their bureaucracy and opening a way for them to sell. We need tenant control of our green spaces and of our homes. The only solution being offered is the Green New Deal which would protect section 9 housing and provide green retrofits. The Green Deal for NYCHA will be a win for our protection. North Bronx Collective, Tibbett’s Tail w]szx Kingsbridge, The Bronx gjkf

the North Bronx Collective has labored to create an open green space on Tibbett’s Tail, a piece of park land in the north Bronx that has long been For the past year,

abandoned by the city and treated as a dumping ground for garbage and industrial waste. We began this work for the long-term health of our communities and land after decades of pollution and dumping. We aim to work in the space to hold educational programming on food liberation work focused on


healthy eating, composting, monarch waystation, and medicinal plants directly serving local residents, schools, and senior centers. In March 2021, the Parks Department locked the gates on Tibbett’s Tail and sealed off the entrance from the neighboring playground, blocking community access to the space and halting community cleanup efforts. At first, Parks communicated with us that they took issue with raised beds installed in Tibbett’s Tail -- which the Collective received as a donation from New York Restoration Project and a former city councilman, in conversation with the local community board. Then, Parks took issue with the fact that the space backs up to the Deegan, and insisted that the public could not access it until a fence, estimated at $350,000 by the city, was installed. The locks and sealed-off entrances, however, treat the community, rather than the highway, as the safety hazard. The city was not ever concerned about the proximity to the Deegan before, and other popular parks like Van Cortlandt are also adjacent to highways without issue. Then, we were told that Tibbett’s Tail isn’t Parks land, thus we could be accused of “trespassing” when they hold cleanups there. This was communicated not directly, but in a statement to NPR’s All of It. As Black and Brown women and gender non-conforming people, we are not being treated as active community members, but objects to be moved elsewhere. We have been safely working in the space consistently for over a year now during a pandemic doing the work the Parks & Recreation Department has neglected to prioritize for years now. For decades now, Parks was not concerned about the safety of the space leaving the land abandoned, uncared for and allowing the immediate BIPOC neighborhood’s streets to remain filthy and trash ridden. Bailey Playground, next door to Tibbett’s Tail, is ranked in the 29% “worst of the Bronx parks”; as recently as 2016, the city only spent $898 maintaining it. Built as part of the WPA program in 1941, Bailey Playground served the largely poor working class Irish residents in the area at the time. Many of these residents were displaced as a result of Robert Moses’ initiative to build the Major Deegan Highway and others slowly moved out as part of white flight from the 70’s through late 80’s. As recently as 2018, it is listed in Community Board 8’s Parks Resource Guide as parkland. There is no information on it being inaccessible or closed to the public. It has not escaped us that the vast majority of workers at Parks come from the Parks Opportunity Program (POP), which hires applicants referred by the Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services and part of Clinton’s Welfare to Work program-- the majority Black and Brown women relegated to picking up trash. In 1969, a collective of Puerto Rican activists known as The Young Lords took charge of a church in El Barrio because, as NYU professor Dr. Arlene Davila mentioned in her IG story supporting our work, “they were denied using it for social programs.” As in the past, the city continues to allow black and brown residents to die. Physical, mental, and emotional deaths that could be avoided through direct investment in education and community led work healing the effects of racism, redlining, pollution, and poverty induced by economic purviews not serving working class people, but the demands of assembly lines for consumption. This is not a matter of true public safety. It is a matter of the decentering of community in what is supposed to be a community space. Our commitment to safety and accessibility has been at the heart of our biweekly cleaning efforts. Why is there a concern now for safety? Is it the rise in real estate development in the area due to the influx of more affluent residents and private universities like Manhattan College? Is it the capital project aimed for 2023 which aims to incorporate parts of Tibbett’s Tail into Bailey Playground, ranked one of the worst parks in the Bronx as recently as 2016 with the city only spending $898 on its maintenance since 1998? Is it to establish more private-public partnerships aimed at making green spaces less accessible, more surveilled and the city more indebted to Wall Street? We can only speculate, but bet it is a combination of all of the above. In the Memorandum of Understanding we drafted to review with the Parks Department, we stipulated that the land on Tibbett’s Tail be unaltered so that migrating wildlife could continue flourishing undisturbed.


Additionally, it would prevent future over-constructing of the site by outside landscape architects who have no vested interest in the area. We stressed continuing our soil remediation techniques which would be the basis of teaching land stewardship skills that work in tandem with nature and can be easily applied to green spaces of all sizes. We have assumed responsibility over taking care of Tibbetts Tail because it is our obligation to repay the debt owed to the Munsee Lenape and Wappinger people on whose land we reside and to the Black enslaved people who died at the site now known as Van Cortlandt Park. Both peoples have yet to be publicly centered at the Park, whose Van Cortlandt Alliance, was founded by the Bronx chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution and current board filled with private and real estate interests. Parks in the USA are sites where Black and Brown lives, narratives, and histories are at odds with the Parks National Service who acquired the parkland by the forceful removal of Native American peoples for the recreation of wealthy white men. Our presence on parkland reveals generations of white supremacist violence and Black and Indigenous resistance. The Parks Department owns 30,000 acres of land in the city. 7,000 of those are in the Bronx. In other words, Parks is the biggest landlord, property manager, and colonial commissioner in the city. Imagine what could we do with 7,000 acres of land? In Tibbett’s Tail we imagine educational programming with QBIPOC and BIPOC youth and a migration way-station and learning about medicinal plants. Our conversations with local educators have taught us that Tibbett’s Tail could serve as a much-needed safe educational space for youth still ostracized and underserved in local public schools. In the context of a new round of land grabs by gentrifiers and developers -- mirroring what happened in the 1970s in The Bronx -- community control of Tibbett’s Tail and other green spaces/gardens is crucial for land liberation work in this city. A few community board members told us that rules are set up so that not just anyone could walk into a park and do whatever they like. We were told to be complacent and to accept socialization in conformity to authority’s demands. Assimilation has never ended well for Black and Brown people. And we are not about to start now. The Cypher w]szx Canerows Hold Heirloom Seeds Norwood, The Bronx gjkf

Green spaces also means green plates. Land liberation cannot come at the loss of healthy food and at the deaths of our non-human siblings and the land. Take note that it is mostly Black and Brown hands that are tasked to swing that ax against non-human necks. Veganism as a liberation praxis (practice and theory) is not new. This is a reclamation of our Indigenous ways of being and thriving. Rejection of oppressive practices also means rejection of the current agricultural facism that exists in this country and in neo-colonial structures worldwide. Decolonization means moving past speciesism in our fight for liberation. We must deeply examine our definitions of food and the pipelines by which food is moved or displaced in our communities. These are just touchpoints in a centuries-long truth. These are truths that need to be shared with our peoples. We have always kept each other safe and whole. Move your work with clarity, intention and conviction. We, the thrivers in the cracks of this city can move these bodies that seek to govern us. We are not their politics. We know the truth. From the edges of the margins comes The Cypher. A molotov cocktail of wildflower seeds bringing a pedagogy that is more dialogic than prescriptive - a street corner conversation. A body of work and knowledge that includes our traditional Indigenous, ancestral African philosophies that were so radical that they were dubbed myth by the embedded anti-Blackness of patriarchy. That is where the vegan ethos we work under spans from, that is the memory that our work aims to stir in our peoples.


This formation focuses on addressing gender equity, food insecurity, root healing, and has an overarching goal of celebrating the indomitable brilliance of TNBGNC and Queer Black femmes. This abundant space holds all QTBIPOC tight, but is rooted in the power of Black femmes. It addresses the needs of our communities by providing context for the ways in which justice for Earth and non-humans is bound up in justice for the most marginalized of us humans - this is a total anti-oppression framework. We build capacity and capital from the inside out. We focus on creating and holding a generous and joyful vegan space for Trans, Non-Binary, Gender Non-Conforming and Queer Black femmes. This is an intergenerational, multiexperiential space that pushes past common patriarchal settler-colonizer structures to embrace African ancestral ways of knowing from a diasporic lens. This formation holds Black space as sacred and necessary for survival – Black TNBGNC and Queer space even more so. This is where we find transcendent realities which move popular movements, culture, and the very understanding of the structures all of us who believe in anti-oppression practice hope to upend. ####

A note on the settler colonial structure The Arsenal......

Built in the mid-1800’s, the Arsenal was a storage repository for munitions. Later, it served as a police precinct, home to the Eugenist based American Museum of Natural History, and a menagerie of kidnapped animals for the entertainment of financier August Belmont and Civil war general and murderer of Native people at Wounded Knee in 1891, Willam Sherman. Violence surrounds the Arsenal. Celebrating war is fixed into the landscape of Central Park. Statues of war criminals pepper every corner. Central Park itself was constructed through the violent eviction of free black people and poor whites. Known as Seneca Village, the area served as refuge for Black people during the Civil War draft riots when they were terrorized by whites. Residents of Senca Village were called squatters, vagabonds, and theives. These terms were used by developers and media to legitmize removing them and negating their rights to their homes. These very familiar language tactics have been used throughout US history to justify redlining, urban removal and rezonings today. Similar conotations are used to describe neighborhoods by real estate powers and gentrifiers. How many times have you heard, “there was nothing here before?”

It is essential to our struggle for self-determination that we speak of love. For love is the necessary foundation enabling us to survive the wars, the hardships, the sickness, and the dying with our spirits intact. It is love that allows us to survive whole. bell hooks