Monday, November 4, 2013

Tension in the Garden

The Hudson Community Garden, at the corner of Columbia and Second streets, has been around for twenty years. The land used for the garden belongs to Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency (HCDPA), and over the two decades of the garden's existence, there have been a few times when its future seemed less than secure. Now there's a new threat to the garden's continued existence from an unexpected quarter: Habitat for Humanity.

Despite its name, which suggests a broader scope, Columbia County Habitat for Humanity has for the past decade focused on building new houses in Hudsonfive on Mill Street and six so far on Columbia Street, two in the 400 block and four in the 200 block. Now it seems that Habitat wants to build four or five more of their passive solar houses on the land that is now the community garden.

Awkward as it may seem to oppose the altruistic efforts of Habitat, the members of the Hudson Community Garden have launched an urgent campaign to save the garden. In an informational letter received by Gossips yesterday, garden directors Vanessa Baehr and Sarah Faulkner make the case for the garden:
For 20 years, the Hudson Community Garden has provided its members, the general public and the city of Hudson with a modest but meaningful place to practice and achieve both food justice and urban environmental sustainability. Each year, up to 40 families and individuals depend on the garden for serious food production--often for a significant portion of their diet. Many of the Bangladeshi community grow vegetables they cannot even purchase in a store in the area.
In the past two years, with a new small but focused and energetic volunteer Board that was consistently active through the 2011-12 & 2012-13 seasons, the Garden has seen many rapid improvements, including newly designed and better maintained common spaces and communal beds, overall improved infrastructure, as well as new programs such as public composting and both youth and adult educational, arts and culture programs for the public. In 2013, the Board crafted a new mission and vision statement for the future that further expands all these programs to serve an even broader audience. The Garden consistently has a waiting list for plots beyond its 40-family capacity, and the community feels it would benefit from expanding to include other green spaces as satellite gardens.
But amidst all this progress, we now have learned that Habitat for Humanity would like to purchase the city lots the Garden occupies, which the city has leased to us on an annual basis for 20 years.
While we feel Habitat's overall mission is also very worthy, we feel that destroying the existing Garden to make way for Habitat's new development would be a total waste of resources as well as a shameful punishment of all the people who have contributed 20 years of sweat equity, hard-earned resources and community spirit in order to build this amazing resource.
. . . An organic garden is a delicate ecosystem that cannot be easily replaced or moved, and to replicate it elsewhere--even if a suitable site could be found--would require a great amount of money and labor.
Garden supporters have created a petition, appealing to HCDPA to preserve the garden. If you agree that the Hudson Community garden is "vitally important and . . . should stay exactly where it is," click here to show your support and sign the petition.


  1. When I was on the board of the Boys & Girls Club, in the mid '90s, I wanted to move the Club to the space occupied by the Community Garden. For reasons that had nothing to do with gardening or community, that never happened. But I must say, in the last several years, I have been very impressed with the Community Garden and do hope we can keep it. We need it! We have a new national magazine in Hudson called Modern Farmer. The CG is it! I would urge Habitat to change their focus a bit, for Hudson, and start rehabbing existing old houses; plenty of good work to do there, without taking away more open space, which we need in Hudson!

  2. Beware the insatiable Land Gators of Hudson! The more they are fed the more they want!

  3. If City officials can ignore the federally protected, historical use of its submersible land, these uplanders don't have a chance.

    Twenty years or two hunderd, these age old bonds are quickly broken by politicians that have never scratched this earth...

  4. It doesn't feel awkward for me to call Habitat's plan into question. Before coming to any conclusion, I'd want to review Habitat's track record in Hudson; their success rate; their learning curve (and its costs); their expenses measured against the results; their level of self-scrutiny ; their alternatives and their interests and efforts in locating an alternative to this proposal.

    The strategy of pitting "awkward" opponents against one another is called "divide and conquer." We should keep in mind a recent example of exploitation of this same awkwardness by Hudson's policy-makers during the failed LWRP planning.

    That was when certain opportunists exploited an Environmental Justice angle just as it appeared a moderate approach to the truck problem wasn't getting any play. (I refer to the South Bay Task Force proposal, which was never fully integrated into the LWRP despite the fact that the idea was first floated by FoH in 2004, if anyone still needs more evidence that the LWRP planners totally faked out public participation.)

    The Environmental Justice ploy was entirely uncalled for, but it was able to win them a battle on their way to losing the war. The same people who pursued the gratuitous EJ issue - most of whom would like to be reelected or reappointed by you tomorrow - were the planners themselves. These same individuals didn't end up creating the kind of LWRP the state would authorize, thus I say they won a cynical battle only to lose the war.

    For a hint of some of the ways the rest of the nation is valuing its community gardens and green spaces in the US Fish and Wildlife Service's "Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative," please consider the following from the current issue of Audubon magazine. While you read, please ask yourselves why Hudson government is so backwards in everything it attempts? Our officials who disdain the public can't even advance their own interests!

  5. Beautiful "community" garden, or ugly homes? Up to you.

  6. No one needs to be pitted against each other here .The Community Garden is worth more than any money. It belongs to the citizen's of Hudson. Leave it alone. It will get sold for peanuts to Habitat, from HDC.
    Habitat just needs to find another place to build. Affordable housing should be made available in all parts of the city. Galloway has warehoused, boarded up, two of largest Apt Buildings on all of Warren St.,also in 2nd Ward, for at least the 7 yrs I have lived here, both a blck over from 200 blck of Columbia St. , of C.G.
    No pressure from "City"., yet one of GalVan's mission statements" to create affordable housing.
    The houses that Habitat have built, design wise, would never be allowed in a historic district. Here, we are at the mercy of the developers and Habitat. What little historic stock we have left is unprotected.
    A developer in the last year bought 2 properties with original houses on them, to tear town &build a 5 apt complex on same block as CG. .Those 2 lots,125 ' deep, as all of that block, on that side of the street, are accessed at 2013 47,000 for the 2 family ,that's aprox 19'wide & 19,000 the for 1 family, aprox 25'wide.
    .The" City "has accessed the 4th St School property, again our land, across from current Library, on State, at $ 77,000, and is threatening to sell it. That land is as wide and as deep, as what Hudson River Studio, Musica and all of Etsy property. (old cannonball factory) are on.. Habitat should get in touch with "City".

  7. Here is a link to the Habitat staff and board:

    Let them know what you think.

  8. What I would like to know is-- How long have Habitat and the City's economic development agency known about this plan, and at what point did they reach out to the Garden about the issue? This is something that should have been aired out years ago, to the benefit of all concerned.

  9. In the same month this year in which Hudson residents discovered the South Bay was clandestinely re-zoned to accommodate a conveyor system, the Riverbend Homeowners Association of Middletown, Connecticut concluded its battle with Habitat for Humanity by purchasing the lots Habitat intended to build on.

    In the end, a protest that basically came down to an "open space" argument - one with far less traction than the threat to remove a long-established, successful community garden - was resolved after a bitter battle. But if the land came at a price to the homeowner's association, then the price for Habitat was a serious black eye to its reputation. Apparently Middletown was quite torn up over the issue.

    Has Columbia County Habitat for Humanity considered the similar prospects here, and decided to move forward anyway?

    Following Peter's questions above (11/4 @ 9:51PM), it appears that Habitat and the HCDPA privilege Habitat's singular goals over the garden's role in strengthening and maintaining the community fabric.

    The HCDPA is probably congenitally myopic, but Habitat for Humanity should take a step back and consider the hidden (to them) social costs of this proposal.

  10. Tonight, 11PM on channel 6 Greg Floyd’s report on “IDA Shadow Agencies”…