Gardens Rising

Lower East Side Community Gardens Green Infrastructure Study and Master Plan

What is Gardens Rising?

Inspired by Superstorm Sandy, and funded by HUD through the NY Governor’s Office for Storm Recovery, Gardens Rising is a community-based environmental project to reduce stormwater flooding on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Gardens Rising is groundbreaking in many ways: We will actually be digging into our community gardens to build innovative green infrastructure to help reduce the negative impacts of stormwater. In the longer term, Gardens Rising will challenge the community to open our minds to the possibilities of addressing climate change in a coastal community by creating an environmentally sound green laboratory in Loisaida that can serve as a model for a more sustainable New York City.

What is the Gardens Rising Lower East Side Community Gardens Green Infrastructure Study and Master Plan?

There are two phases to Gardens Rising.

  • Phase One is to devise a Master Plan to design and build green infrastructure in and around our community gardens, to be completed by November 1, 2016.
  • Phase Two is the implementation of the Master Plan, where we will actually build the infrastructure. This phase will be completed by September 2019.

The Feasibility Study and Master Plan is the first phase of the project and will include significant community engagement. Phase Two will include the construction of green infrastructure elements within and directly adjacent to the community gardens, as identified in Phase One.
Working together, we will examine the feasibility, costs, benefits and impacts of proposed stormwater capture methods. When completed, the plan will give priority to areas prone to stormwater flooding or located in a coastal flood zone.
These community garden green infrastructure solutions will address climate change by increasing permeability and absorptive green surfaces, thus preventing stormwater and combined sewer overflow into the river, and reducing puddling and other impacts on the land that could obstruct daily duties or threaten people’s safety.
Lower East Side New Yorkers will actually be digging into our gardens to build green infrastructures to reduce the impact of stormwater in our community.

It is an experiment in citizen participation, self-governance and self-determination. Our community will decide how these projects are devised, designed and implemented. And it will challenge us to open our minds to the possibilities of creating an environmentally sound green laboratory in Loisaida that can serve as a model for a sustainable New York City.

How is this project being funded?

Gardens Rising is funded through the US Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding via the  NY Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery’s (GOSR) NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program. The NYC Community Gardens Coalition is the recipient of a $2 million grant award to implement the Gardens Rising project.
The NY Rising Community Reconstruction (NYRCR) Program, announced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in April of 2013, is a more than $650 million planning and implementation process established to provide rebuilding and resiliency assistance to communities severely damaged by Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, Superstorm Sandy, and the summer floods of 2013.
Drawing on lessons learned from past recovery efforts, the NYRCR Program is a unique combination of bottom-up community participation and State-provided technical expertise. This powerful combination recognizes not only that community members are best positioned to assess the needs and opportunities of the places where they live and work, but also that decisions are best made when they are grounded in rigorous analysis and informed by the latest innovative solutions.
Through this program, Lower Manhattan below 14th Street was allotted up to $25 million in CDBG-DR funding.  The Gardens Rising project evolved from a project proposed in the Lower Manhattan Planning Committee’s NY Rising Community Reconstruction Plan.
Funds for this program are administered through GOSR to the NYCCGC and is reimbursement based. Rules regarding hiring, compliance, and related activities are set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Each garden has its own governance and will be able to propose specific projects inside and adjacent to their lot(s) that will be constructed in Phase Two and maintained as part of the garden over time.

What benefits does this provide?

Gardens Rising presents an opportunity for 47 community gardens on Manhattan’s Lower East Side to design and install nature-based infrastructure that increases resiliency and reduces stormwater impacts.
Building resiliency alongside stormwater management infrastructure, the location of rain gardens, bioswales, permeable pavement, and more will be determined with community gardeners through public meetings, garden mapping, design planning sessions, and site visits throughout the Study Area. This funding is a testament to the power of the Lower East Side community gardeners and demonstrates we can generate so much, if we all dig in together.

Does Gardens Rising need any volunteers?

Yes we do! Gardens Rising is a project based on public involvement. The success of this project depends upon community participation. There will be many public meetings with the technical team and city officials to develop goals, objectives and policies and these meetings will be inclusive of all segments of the Study Area.
Meetings will be open to the public, participant-driven, and focused on co-developing a plan that can be implemented with optimal effectiveness. The Gardens Rising team will assist the technical team and city officials in developing goals, objectives, and policies to implement the project.
Gardens Rising will work closely with each community garden to custom-design the green infrastructure proposal, public education and involvement program to meet needs of the community gardens within the Study Area.

What areas does Gardens Rising cover?

The Study Area is bounded by 14th Street on the north, the East River to the east and south, and the Bowery/Fourth Avenue on the west. The Study area is home to forty-seven (47) gardens measuring approximately seven (7) acres.

Who runs the project?

The NYC Community Garden Coalition (NYCCGC), along with our partners: Loisaida United Neighborhood Gardens (LUNGS) and Green Thumb NYC Parks Department), are the Gardens Rising Team. As a continuous process that involves all the stakeholders, Gardens Rising will use innovative techniques that help citizens and officials find common ground at each stage of the planning process.

Who is involved in Gardens Rising?

Gardens Rising is an experiment in citizen participation, self-governance and self-determination; our community will decide how these projects are devised, designed and implemented.  The 47 community gardens on Manhattan’s Lower East Side will have the opportunity to design and install green infrastructure in and around their gardens that increases resiliency and reduces stormwater impacts.

What can I do right now?

Watch the flow of rain water. If possible, take pictures of areas that get muddy or flood when it rains, both inside and on the sidewalk, and on the street adjacent to your garden.
Talk with your garden members about this project and consider creating a committee. We hope that every garden that wants to participate will have 1 or 2 people who stay involved continually.

How is Gardens Rising governed?

A Steering Committee will be formed of nine members; five gardeners selected by the garden members, and four experts in relevant fields selected by the Gardens Rising team. The nine-person Steering Committee will be composed of a diverse and representative selection of community and city stakeholders, ultimately populated as following:

  • Five members will be community gardeners who, through an open nomination process, are elected by gardens in the Study Area.
  • Each garden will nominate one member and have one vote in the Steering Committee election.
  • Four members will be selected from recommended experts in the fields of Green Infrastructure, Design, and Engineering.
  • In addition, five gardeners will each represent a geographical garden sector in the Study Area. These representatives will work as advisers to the Steering Committee. Each garden will nominate one gardener from their geographic group and the gardens in that sector will elect their representative.

What will Gardens Rising staff consist of?

The staff of Gardens Rising is headed by Aziz Dehkan, NYCCGC Executive Director, who works together with Beverley Love as the Administrative Assistant, Charles Krezell as the Program Director, Gianni Simplicio as the Bookkeeper, Crystal Gaudio as the Project Manager, Ann Lee as the Webmaster, Sara Romanoski as the Communications Manager, and Loretta Yong as our Community Organizer. The consulting team for Phase One includes WE Design, eDesign Dynamics, and 3×3 Design.

The Gardens Rising team intends to hire the most qualified, cost-effective personnel, with a preference for local hiring. An affirmative action plan will ensure equal employment opportunity.

Will Gardens Rising bring jobs into the community?

Bringing jobs into our area is part of the mission of Gardens Rising. Job positions will be advertised, which will help implement Phase One and will require organizational and communications skills. There will be construction jobs in Phase Two of this project that will give local residents preference with the help of workforce development through Community Board 3. Gardens Rising hopes to create good paying green jobs in the community.

What will my garden get out of this grant?

No garden is guaranteed funding from the Gardens Rising project. The Steering Committee of Gardens Rising will determine where and what eligible projects the grant funds will be spent on and gardens within Flood Zones will receive preference.

What is the time frame?

The first phase of the project was launched on October 31, 2015. The Team has one year to complete the planning study. The second phase is the implementation of the Master Plan, which must be completed by September 2019.

Why isn’t my neighborhood included in Gardens Rising?

The Gardens Rising project evolved as a part of the Lower Manhattan NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program. Localities were chosen based on Federally-assessed storm damage from Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and Superstorm Sandy.
The Lower East Side was included as part of the larger Lower Manhattan Planning area south of 14th Street. The project location was ideal because the area is 95% impermeable, and the majority of gardens are located within an area that was severely flooded during Super Storm Sandy.

The Gardens Rising team is fully sensitive to the fact that many other community gardens throughout our five boroughs have been impacted by storm events. It is the hope that best practices from Gardens Rising can be adapted to benefit many community gardens across New York City.

What will Gardens Rising require of us?

Gardens Rising believes in “citizen science”, so we need you to observe and record current conditions around your neighborhood, share best practices that you may already be using for making your garden more permeable, and work together on solutions and ideas that address conditions inside and adjacent to each community garden.
This is an opportunity to develop resiliency, increase biodiversity, and expand green space while reducing flooding and combined sewer overflows.

Who is collecting this data and how?

As well as developing information with community gardeners, Gardens Rising staff will be looking at maps, surveys and other sources to determine and catalog data. Our staff will make this information public online and at public events in multiple languages. Look under “Resources” on this website to find an online Glossary as well as a collection of maps and publications.

The Gardens Rising design team visited 47 gardens to measure, observe and discuss issues with garden members. Information from the community will also be collected at periodic community meetings. Check our calendar for upcoming workshops and garden visits.

How does Gardens Rising help community gardens not included in the project?

The Gardens Rising team envisions this as an opportunity to attract more greening programs, green jobs and grants into our greater community. It is our intent to link Gardens Rising to related initiatives in permaculture, solar energy, composting practices, citizen science, rat abatement policies, and other ideas and practices that will evolve with this process.

We encourage all community gardeners throughout NYC to contact Gardens Rising with ideas and proposals.